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A Series of Questions and Answers on the Holy Spirit (and related topics)
The metaphor of the Holy Spirit is among the most commonly used metaphors in the Course. Some common questions that involve the use of this idea follow here.
Is there a technique to hear the Holy Spirit?
Questioner: Is there a specific technique that you teach people on how to hear the Holy Spirit or have taught people in the past?
Speaker: I would say not so much a specific technique in that the sense that the HS curriculum is so highly individualized. There are so many different meditation techniques, tools, and paths etc. I would say that the short answer for that is when I am pressed with ‘Give me something specific that I can do to hear the Holy Spirit’ or ‘How can I hear the Holy Spirit’s voice?’, I point to ACIM just because it’s the path that I used and it was successful. I also studied many other paths and was pretty well read and very open minded about many pathways and teachers and techniques; but in the end it was ACIM that came to me. It was dropped in my lap. It was in English instead of Aramaic or Latin. It didn’t have to be re-translated. It was in a language that involved psychology, religion and Christianity. It was in English, as I said, and incorporated education as well. Since I spent 10 years in university I was well versed in education, so even with the terms ‘curriculum’ and ‘learning goal’, I said, ‘oh my gosh, this is in my language.’ I thought to myself, ‘I have no excuses now’. It’s perfectly delivered for me and it’s a ‘how to’ book with a text, workbook and a manual. I have absolutely no excuses. I can’t say, ‘God you didn’t make it clear enough.’ It’s right here. So when people ask me specifically I point them to the text of ACIM where Jesus says, ’you study this text’. He told Helen and Bill, at some point after several chapters were dictated, ’you actually have to study the notes. It’s not like osmosis. I am giving it to you but you must study the notes.’ For me it was the same. Study the text and then do the workbook. The workbook has very explicit and had specific instructions. It has daily instructions on what to do, how to do it and how long to do it. It’s right there. It also has the teacher’s manual so that when you get to the point of really starting to hear the Holy Spirit’s voice and you are starting to fine tune your learning and listening instrument then it has some helpful pointers in there as well. So that’s my short answer as to how I hear the Holy Spirit’s voice. I just point to the course. The course isn’t for everyone so that answer won’t come out all the time. But for those that feel the course is their path and it doesn’t matter what language they are working with, I just say, ‘Hang in there with that text and workbook and teacher’s manual. That will be as good as any formula that I could come up with’.
Who can hear the Holy Spirit?
Questioner: A course in Miracles says that only a few can hear the Holy Spirit. What is your take on that statement and can anyone hear God’s voice?
Speaker: Yes: I think that within the realm of time and space where we seem to have a cosmos of billions of people, over 6 billion on this planet alone, and many other creatures and beings on many, many other galaxies and solar systems and so forth, that within that larger context, the relative context… I would say that it is somewhat ‘realistic’ to say that there are very few that hear God’s Voice. The distortions of the ego seem to be layers and layers of overlays that prevent a perfectly clear expression of the Holy Spirit through individuals.
Learning to hear the Holy Spirit
Speaker: I would say that first of all it seems to contrast the human experience [which] is full of so many upsetting, sorrowful and painful experiences. You might say that within myself it was like there must be an answer to this, there must be an end, there must be a better way, there has to be a way out of this way of feeling; there has to be a way out of this way of thinking and perceiving. So the impetus was there, the motivation for a change of tune, a change of purpose, was very, very strong. The other thing was that before I was hearing the Holy Spirit clearly, I was intuiting the Holy Spirit. I was feeling intuitions and impulses and promptings that felt very wonderful. I would say that in the very beginning, before I was hearing the Holy Spirit’s voice, I was feeling like someone had a feather in my heart chamber and was in there tickling my heart, the very core of my being. Initially, I went, ‘Wow, this is not an intellectual experience’. This is spectacular and I feel so good and the tickle is guiding me. So initially, before it was listen to the Holy Spirit or follow the Holy Spirit, it was follow the tickle and I did. It got me into actually being able to hear the voice. So the tickle came first.
On quieting the mind
Questioner: What do you tell people who ask you, "How do I quiet this mind? How do I get rid of this mind chatter? How can I get into that quiet place within?" How do you teach people how to do that or what do you say to them?
Speaker: Well there is an idea in the course that really helped me. It was that when you find resistance high and dedication weak, do not fight yourself. This was a very helpful passage for me particularly at the beginning of my work with the course when I had extreme difficulty in quieting my mind for a sustained period. I would experience a lot of irritation and frustration and then pray and open the book to a passage like that of ‘do not fight yourself’. And I thought how wonderful a tool it is that it is essentially saying ‘put the book down’, instead of fighting yourself or trying to force your way through it. I think it’s a very deep theme and topic.
I tried initially in the parable of [my life] to go off and live in the woods in a very simple way with no running water and only bread and water to eat and drink. The ego resistance to the silence was enormous and it seemed like initially there wasn’t a whole lot of success at reaching a consistent stillness there so I learned to relax and to just tune in with the Holy Spirit and say, ‘OK what would you have me do here?’ And the guidance was not to just hang in with long hours of meditation. I was guided to go places and meet people. I started traveling and speaking with many different ACIM groups and instead of going at the ego through meditation and trying to do battle with it, I just decided to follow my joy. Then the sense of resistance started going down little by little as I did follow my bliss and was used to let the voice for God speak through me. And then years later I was guided to another hermitage experience where it wasn’t trying to be silent anymore, which was the problem; it was the silence of my natural Self just pervading my experience. It was like the silence found me instead of me trying to find the silence. That was so freeing. That would be my main advice for people. As you are trying to still your mind, be very gentle with yourself. Don’t try to speed it up or force it. If you do, which is ego; there will be a sense of coercion… kind of like you are being forced to do something that you really don’t want to do. Come back and follow the Holy Spirit’s intuition and prompts. That will gently guide you in.
The Trinity as a framework for Awakening
Questioner: I am curious as to what you think about the concept that in Truth there is no Father/Son/Holy Spirit; there’s only One. But given our present experience we need some form of framework so that we can come to understand and experience that Oneness. The trinity helps to give us that framework and understanding so that we in our present experience can come to that more full experience that we are one with all that is. Does that make sense?
Speaker: Yes, that is exactly it. People have talked for a long time about the trinity and have said that if there is only one and there is only perfect oneness then what is the need for a trinity. It’s as you said. It’s just a framework or structure to help the sleeping mind wake up. It is mainly in terms of functionality. God the Creator and Christ or Son is Creation and Holy Spirit is the bridge to help the sleeping Son wake up to realize that ‘Ah I am Christ an Idea in the Mind of God. I am’. That’s what this is all about.
The barriers to hearing the Holy Spirit
Questioner: What would you say is the biggest barrier to hearing God’s voice and please mention any advice that you have to overcome that barrier?
Speaker: A lot of people report that they feel like sometimes there is static or many voices. It's like trying to tune in to an FM station but you are between stations. You would hear a lot of static and feel maybe even a panic about that because people feel they need an answer. They feel or say, “Oh my God I need an answer” but this just makes the volume of the static go up. So I would say that obviously fear and the presence of fear is the biggest block to hearing the voice for the Holy Spirit because when the mind is in fear it is afraid of hearing the Holy Spirit's voice. As ACIM says, ‘No amount of evidence will convince you of what you do not want’.
I’ve always kept that in mind that I had to begin to really cultivate my wanting to hear and wanting to experience the Holy Spirit’s use of symbols if I was really going to hear that voice consistently. So fear is probably in a short summary the biggest block to hearing the voice for God. And the answer to that is of course trust. Trust is the first characteristic of the ten characteristics of a Teacher of God. He also says that when trust goes all the rest goes. So you could imagine developing your characteristics and then getting into fear and losing your trust. In Christian terms they used to call this backsliding. With the Course in Miracles, sometimes people do swing from where they will be passionate with the course, practicing it every day and working with it - and then sometimes those same people will close the book and lock it in the closet and swear that they don’t want to see it. They may flush it down the toilet, page by page, or throw it in the river.
Discerning between the ego and the Holy Spirit
Questioner: I think one of the most common challenges people have is not knowing whether they are hearing the Holy Spirit or hearing the ego or hearing the Holy Spirit as opposed to their own voice. It just seems to be a question that is so repeatedly asked and I would love to hear your thoughts on that. How do people tell the difference between the Holy Spirit and the ego and the Holy Spirit and their own voice?
Speaker: That is probably one of the most often asked questions. I call it a question of discernment. Discerning between the voice of the ego and the voice of the Holy Spirit. It’s a lesson in discernment. I think that the lesson in the workbook that was really helpful for me in this was when Jesus said, ‘The one right use of judgment is to see how you feel?’ That got my attention. When I first read the first part of that statement it really perked my ears up. The one right use of judgment…wow. I am ready to let go of judgment and he’s saying ‘the one right use’. So I would say the clearest, straightforward, simple way is to really, really practice being in touch with how you feel. And of course there are many subtleties to this because if you have a lot of distractions going on and your mind seems to be very scattered and not really pointed in attentiveness then you may seem to have an upset, an irritation, or an annoyance that can go unnoticed for quite some time and grow into anger and maybe into rage before it gets your attention. But the more you get attentive to the mind and thoughts in mind training you are able to pay attention and notice that upset which is a clear indication that you are in alignment with the ego and wrong minded perception and thinking.
In terms of distinguishing the voice of the Holy Spirit from your own voice, in the ultimate sense, since the Holy Spirit speaks for the Christ, which is your own self, our own self, the voice of the Holy Spirit is always your voice because it always knows your best interests in every perceived situation you seem to be in. It knows your best interests with anything you may be dealing with. The Holy Spirit is your own voice because you are created by God, and the Holy Spirit speaks for God. In terms of sounding like a voice…it can sound many different ways. It can feel like a stream of consciousness, like a stream of thoughts, or it can have an audible quality to it. Many people who do not hear it consistently will say they have moments when they were driving the car and they heard an audible voice saying ‘change lanes’, and they paid attention and avoided what seemed to be an automobile accident or something. There are many ways that you can hear it. I would say that some people hear it as a sound that sounds like their own speaking voice. Others hear it as a masculine or feminine voice or as the voice of a young man or woman or an elderly man or woman. But we must remember that these are all just forms and you are mainly paying attention to content, not the form that it comes in. That’s probably the most straightforward way I would say it. Discernment. It’s a huge topic that you could really go into to. It is a very core topic because the way out of faulty perception is to tune into that voice and hear it clearly and consistently. That is the purpose behind everything I do…the purpose behind your lives…is really to come to that discernment.
Can the ego trick you?
Questioner: Is it possible, in your experience, that the ego can trick you into making you believe that it is the Holy Spirit? It seems like a lot of people sometimes worry that ego is going to somehow trick them into believing it’s the Holy Spirit.
Speaker: Well the definition of the ego is the belief in separation. The ego is self-deception and you might say that the ego’s voice is trickery. Its actually that all of the cosmos was made as a trick, as Jesus says in the workbook, where figures seem to come and go and all of what seems to be linear time (objects and figures moving in and out of awareness) is part of a trick or a slight of hand, as Jesus calls it. It sounds almost like a poker game but it is a trick.
As you go through discernment exercises it will seem like there are times when you follow the voice in your mind and it seems to lead you down a dead end road or to a state of upset; but actually I think its simpler to think of it as you are just choosing your state of mind moment by moment and every moment is a clean fresh opportunity to choose again. That keeps it very simple and keeps it out of guilt. If you start looking at your life and your linear experiences and start analyzing them and saying, ‘I must have been tricked here and there’, you get into analyzing the past and trying to figure out the future. Those are always defenses against the present moment.
Maintaining peace in daily life
Questioner: There is a theme of questions that people have asked about. It is about mind chatter and about being in the world. How can you maintain contact with God or quiet that chatter? How can you be in the world (say at work for example) and be mindful of God? How can I hear God’s voice in the middle of chaotic intense circumstances occurring around me and involving me? There are lots of question about maintaining the awareness of God and having some peace amidst what seems to be chaos.
Speaker: Yes, a very often-asked question. How do I do this in the midst of work or chaotic situations? At the beginning I think you do the best you can and it’s important to start the day very firmly open and connected by doing your workbook lessons or by having quiet time and communing with the Holy Spirit and asking for instructions. As you move along in this path there may even be times when you are guided to go to for a hermitage experience or go for a longer retreat. It may be walks in the woods or by the ocean because the more you start to fine tune this you may be guided for longer stretches of what seems to be silence, even in terms of the world’s definition. It will look like finding quiet spaces and quiet times. Even this is just a phase because peace of mind is not circumstance dependant so you may find yourself sailing across the ocean blue thinking, ‘This is it. I have finally left the world behind. I just have to live on the ocean’. This is not where this is leading but those moments and periods of time can be very, very helpful and extremely nurturing as you go much deeper on the spiritual journey.
The healed mind on prayer
Speaker: That’s a very good question. It’s more now that if I seem to call on the Holy Spirit in a prayer with the group or something, it’s almost like asking a rhetorical question. It’s not a real question but its being used as a teaching device. For example, when you make a prayer and you call upon the Holy Spirit’s help in a group, it’s really a symbol of being open to receive guidance. It has been this sense of a merge so that I am identified with that voice. It’s actually not so much like the early days where I am asking and receiving but it’s more like a flow, almost like being carried in the river, where you are merged with the river. I’m just enjoying the hum or the flow of all of life.
Questioner: So really when the ego falls away that voice really has a transition between seeking guidance to being it and watching the unfolding?
Speaker: Exactly, in fact I had a friend who visited many years ago. At first she had great difficulty in hearing the Holy Spirit and being in touch with her intuitions. Then with a lot of practice with the course, using movies, and many meditation practices she would hear the voice speak to her and direct her on specific things like what movies to watch and what job to take and so forth. Then she went through a phase after that where she was panicking because she would ask for help and would hear nothing. She was panicking because she thought she had almost blown it and disconnected from the Holy Spirit. At one point I laughed and I said, ‘Silence is a wonderful gift’. She looked at me in surprise. I can think of no greater gift than the stillness of God's presence. She was kind of assuming that the Holy Spirit should be chattering away all day to her if she were successful, and that when she was just having these quiet moments and there was no chattering going on (even from the Holy Spirit) that she was failing. And I said, ‘Oh now a tranquil mind is no small gift and when you do have these moments you don’t have to get into a panic state. You need not expect that the Holy Spirit should be speaking and giving lectures and sermons but just enjoy the stillness’. That's where it all leads anyways, to the silence and the experience where the voice for God is suddenly resting along with you as you.
The Holy Spirit's function in communication
Questioner: Can you clarify the difference between God and the Holy Spirit and why we cannot communicate directly with God? This is as per the Course in Miracles.
Speaker: God is abstract Love and Light. You might say that the term communion would apply to God in the sense that it is being in an experience of total oneness with God. Jesus expressed this through the words, ‘I and the Father are one’…a communion experience where there seems to be a creator and a creation. There seems to be a father and a son, a source and an effect of that source but actually its just one happy song or melody of total creation. That is a description, even though it is beyond description, of God and Heaven.
The Holy Spirit's response to the ego
Questioner: How would you describe how the Holy Spirit responds to the ego?
Speaker: Well I think that line in the course is appropriate where it says, ‘Forgiveness looks and waits and watches and judges not.’ It’s like there is a presence that is so peaceful and so tranquil and joyful. It is just certain in what is real and what is true. In one sense you can say that the Holy Spirit and the ego really have no meeting point. It’s like light and darkness. You can’t have a room that has both in it. If the light is on the darkness is gone. If it's pitch dark then there is an absence of light. So these are two thought systems that have no meeting point whatsoever. In one sense you might say that metaphorically speaking the Holy Spirit overlooks error. That still implies that the error is there, but the Holy Spirit is good at overlooking it.
Questioner: Wow, so beautiful. So when you don’t see error, you could have people in front of you getting angry at one another and cursing and yet you don’t even observe the ego at all? What would your experience be if you saw someone standing in front of you maybe yelling at the person next to them having a really tough time? From your perspective, since the Holy Spirit looks beyond or past the ego, what is that experience like for you?
Speaker: The words that come to mind are ‘unified perception’ which is all things working together for good. When you have a single purpose then all the images are kind of unified and all the sights and sounds are unified. Smells and all physical perceptions that seem to be physical are all part of this unified experience. I experience the whole situation like a tapestry where I am simply flowing with Spirit and knowing that all things are working together for good. In one sense you might say that that is what unified perception gives you. It takes away all the judgments and the preconceptions that would break the situation apart into separate behaviors and separate symbols. It just gives you a unified experience, even though the Holy Spirit here can speak about these things as if there were separate reactions and experiences. That’s what the joy of enlightenment is. It’s no problem. It’s just happiness.
Do persons awaken?
Questioner: I don’t think there are that many people in this moment that are [actually awake]. I think there are millions of people that are in the process, working it, practicing it, going through it and yet I haven’t seen many people pop out the other side. I think that there is going to be a quickening of that where there is going to be more and more people and that is going to be very inspiring. Yet to even have a couple of people in my life where I can see that that has occurred is really a blessing so thank you…it really incredible.
Speaker: As we are going through the process we are grateful for all the signs and symbols…the Buddhas and Jesus and Krishnas and the mystics and the saints that seem to be sprinkled throughout history. We are so grateful for those and then the more you start to apply the teachings of the course you start to realize that its just one mind waking up and recognizing itself. What that means is, as Jesus says, ‘When I awoke you were with me.’ Or he’ll say it another way when he is asked, ‘How many teacher of God does it take to save the world? One …One …’ That answer is amazing but it is just saying that there is one mind and there is only one of us and we are all the Christ. I have shared with people very often, when they say Jesus was awakened and talk about awakened beings, that Jesus the man, as it says in the teacher’s manual, the man was an illusion. That’s quite a striking statement for many. I would say that persons don’t really awake. It’s just the mind that was dreaming it was a person realizes that it was mistaken. It’s kind of like quantum physics. It's a big turnaround there.
Questioner: Right and in a world it looks like the hundredth monkey syndrome but it’s really the one monkey syndrome.
Speaker: That is right; the one monkey that sees that it is not a monkey.
The Holy Spirit's voice as my own
Questioner: You said earlier that the Holy Spirit is our own voice and the more that we listen to it and spend time with that voice and experience it, the more we really do start to identify it as ourselves. That is the greatest news ever.
Speaker: Yes, and it just depends on where your mind is at as to what seems to be most helpful. For example there are phrases from the bible, ‘But for the grace of God there go I’, as if you are apart from an experience and your grateful that your not a part of something and then the more you get into the experience of oneness you say, ‘Yes for the grace of God there go I. That’s me…Its not that I am different’. You also hear, ‘Not my will but Thine be done’. Initially when you are starting out on the journey that seems to be a great technique in the mind for surrendering to something that is greater than yourself. Then you read the course and Jesus says that your will and Gods will are the same. You’re one. All of a sudden the old, ‘Not my will but thine be done’ starts to seem funny. You think, ‘Oh yeah God’s will is my will and the voice for God is my true voice,’ but at the early stages of mind training these seem like arrogant statements and they don’t seem to be appropriate at all. Once you get into advanced mind training and you feel like your really advanced and you are feeling the peace of God, these statements, ‘I and the Father are one’…’my will and God’s will are one’…they seem very, very natural.
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