by Celia Hales. Reprinted from Miracles (publisher Jon Mundy).
A close reading of A Course in Miracles suggests that the basis for egotism is a search for specialness. For all the years prior to discovering the Course, I think I was far too egotistical, and this desire to be “special” undoubtedly constituted a particular form of neurosis. As I have studied A Course in Miracles over the years, its significant passages have gone a long way toward setting me free of the trials of the ego, the trials borne of my misdirected desires.
Because none of us want to see ourselves as neurotic, we usually can observe this intrinsic craziness in others more often than we can observe it in ourselves. We see oscillations of personality that appear to twist and turn in the wind. We see our brothers and sisters alternating between sweetness and hostility. Until we study the Course, we seldom are reflective enough to see that this oscillation is actually our own problem, projected outward. Yet these others can make our lives miserable if they have any power over us. And if manifesting in a peer, a friend or significant other, these conflicting behaviors are puzzling in the least, and personally damaging (though illusory, as the Course says) in the most. We need to realize that this specialness, the neurosis of these others, is not all “out there.” The truth is that, to one degree or another, we all think we are special.
It is just to the degree that we ascribe to specialness that we are vulnerable to the ego’s assaults, whether perceived as assaults emanating from another or from our own inner demons. It is then that we are most vulnerable to the world’s onslaughts. We are engaged in a dance, one to another, interlocking our complexes to fit, however unpleasant the dance may become. Usually we see our pride pricked at the point of most vulnerability This is the ego’s greatest trial, a time of unique opportunity for us if we can only see it thus. We are being shown what needs to be remedied in ourselves, how the ego needs to be undone. If we listen, we will find a gift in the ashes of our former “triumphs.” We will let the ego wither away at the point of specialness.
And so it goes with all points of neurosis. As they are shown to us, we must let them slip away. Jesus is able to heal a neurotic if she is cooperating with him. One way to cooperate is to take the intellectual framework of the Course and marry that to our relationship to our brothers and sisters. Then the mental and emotional meld as one, and we are on our way to full recovery as Sons and Daughters of God.
When this pathway back to God is begun, the way at first seems hard, because the ego is still strong within us, and it sniffs defeat in the air and would be violent to retain control of one’s mind and heart. Consistently listening to the Holy Spirit, prayerfully considering the promptings of guidance, will eventually smooth the way so that one knows, deep in the heart, that a withered ego is one’s only salvation. Then is one’s real Self actually strong, no longer a will ‘o wisp in the breeze, batted about by every foreign opinion thrust upon it. And we see that it was always the ego that suffered defeat at the hands of its “enemies.” Always being undone, for that is God’s way, the ego is abandoned by our real Self as well. And then the way is paved for great and faster growth as the Sons and Daughters of God we truly are. We direct this growth, informed by the Holy Spirit. Remember that A Course in Miracles tells us that the mind is very powerful. It also says that the reason that we don’t believe this is because we are afraid of its power: “You prefer to believe that your thoughts cannot exert real influence because you are actually afraid of them” (T-2.VI.9:10). The Holy Spirit’s guidance will take the fear out of the direction in which our minds take us.
Surely we are afraid when we look around and see a ravaged world. Did we do this? Yes, the Course counsels, but only in illusion and only in madness. The Course says that faith, belief, and vision, shared with us by the Holy Spirit, are our way out. As the goal of salvation replaces the goal of sin, our steps in the mist become clearer. Faith inevitably gives us the power of persistence, but we don’t recognize the tremendous power that is unleashed until we place our faith not in sin, but in love. It is then that the power becomes the reliable lifesaver that it is meant to be.
I was once described by one of my professors, in a letter of recommendation open for me to read, as having an “indomitable will to succeed.” At the time, almost 30 years ago, I took this as a compliment. Now I see in this a glimpse of the personal power that I (and everyone else) have. I now know that the “indomitable will” of that era was far too informed by the ego. It was a competitive bent that later would alienate some of my co-workers. What had worked well in our educational system worked less well in a reference unit in a university library where cooperation was necessary to accomplish shared goals. I had to learn how to cooperate for shared goals.
Now I know that this drive to succeed is laudatory only when it is not threatening to other people, as it had been in my first position as a reference librarian. If there is even a hint of feeling better than others, this is an example of the ego’s goal of specialness. Jesus says, “You are not special” (T-24.II.4:1). If we think we are, we are mistaken. The will to succeed must encompass our fellowman as well. The will to succeed must also be bent in obedience to the promptings of the Inner Spirit, the Holy Spirit Who guides as far as we are willing, at any given point, to go—but only as far as we express our willingness—no further. When we listen to the Holy Spirit, then and only then is our power truly released to serve all of humanity.
When we are at peace, we are at home in God. When we let conflict reside within our hearts and minds, it leads inexorably to fear. Where peace abides, love is. And, in the Course’s terms, it is a love that knows no specialness in ourselves or others.