"Nothing real can be threatened. Nothing unreal exists.
Herein Lies the peace of God."
A Course in Miracles
MANUAL for TEACHERS

4. What Are the Characteristics of God's Teachers?

1 The surface traits of God's teachers are not at all alike. They do not look alike to the body's eyes, they come from vastly different backgrounds, their experiences of the world vary greatly, and their superficial "personalities" are quite distinct. Nor at the beginning stages of their functioning as teachers of God have they as yet acquired the deeper characteristics that will establish them as what they are. God gives special gifts to His teachers because they have a special role in His plan for Atonement. Their specialness is, of course, only temporary—set in time as a means of leading out of time. These special gifts, born in the holy relationship toward which the teaching-learning situation is geared, become characteristic of all teachers of God who have advanced in their own learning. In this respect they are all alike.

2 All differences among the Sons of God are temporary. Nevertheless, in time it can be said that the advanced teachers of God have the following characteristics:

Trust

3 This is the foundation on which their ability to fulfill their function rests. Perception is the result of learning. In fact, perception is learning because cause and effect are never separated. The teachers of God have trust in the world because they have learned it is not governed by the laws the world made up. It is governed by a Power Which is in them but not of them. It is this Power that keeps all things safe. It is through this Power that the teachers of God look on a forgiven world.

4 When this Power has once been experienced, it is impossible to trust one's own petty strength again. Who would attempt to fly with the tiny wings of a sparrow when the mighty power of an eagle has been given him? And who would place his faith in the shabby offerings of the ego when the gifts of God are laid before him? What is it that induces them to make the shift?

5 First, they must go through what might be called "a period of undoing." This need not be painful, but it usually is so experienced. It seems as if things are being taken away, and it is rarely understood initially that their lack of value is merely being recognized. How can lack of value be perceived unless the perceiver is in a position where he must see things in a different light? He is not yet at a point at which he can make the shift entirely internally. And so the plan will sometimes call for changes in what seem to be external circumstances. These changes are always helpful. When the teacher of God has learned that much, he goes on to the second stage.

6 Next, the teacher of God must go through a "period of sorting-out." This is always somewhat difficult because, having learned that the changes in his life are always helpful, he must now decide all things on the basis of whether they increase the helpfulness or hamper it. He will find that many if not most of the things he valued before will merely hinder his ability to transfer what he has learned to new situations as they arise. Because he has valued what is really valueless, he will not generalize the lesson for fear of loss and sacrifice. It takes great learning to understand that all things, events, encounters, and circumstances are helpful. It is only to the extent to which they are helpful that any degree of reality should be accorded them in this world of illusion. The word "value" can apply to nothing else.

7 The third stage through which the teachers of God must go can be called a "period of relinquishment." If this is interpreted as giving up the desirable, it will engender enormous conflict. Few teachers of God escape this distress entirely. There is, however, no point in sorting out the valuable from the valueless unless the next obvious step is taken. The third step is rarely if ever begun until the second is complete. Therefore, the period of overlap is apt to be one in which the teacher of God feels called upon to sacrifice his own best interests on behalf of truth. He has not realized as yet how wholly impossible such a demand would be. He can learn this only as he actually does give up the valueless. Through this he learns that where he anticipated grief, he finds a happy light-heartedness instead; where he thought something was asked of him, he finds a gift bestowed on him.

8 Now comes a "period of settling down." This is a quiet time in which the teacher of God rests a while in reasonable peace. Now he consolidates his learning. Now he begins to see the transfer value of what he has learned. Its potential is literally staggering, and the teacher of God is now at the point in his progress at which he sees in it his whole way out. "Give up what you do not want and keep what you do." How simple is the obvious! And how easy to do! The teacher of God needs this period of respite. He has not yet come as far as he thinks. Yet when he is ready to go on, he goes with mighty companions beside him. Now he rests a while and gathers them before going on. He will not go on from here alone.

9 The next stage is indeed a "period of unsettling." Now must the teacher of God understand that he did not really know what was valuable and what was valueless. All that he really learned so far was that he did not want the valueless and that he did want the valuable. Yet his own sorting-out was meaningless in teaching him the difference. The idea of sacrifice, so central to his thought system, had made it impossible for him to judge. He thought he had learned willingness, but now he sees that he does not know what the willingness is for. And now he must attain a state that may remain impossible for a long, long time. He must learn to lay all judgment aside and ask only what he really wants in every circumstance. Were not each step in this direction so heavily reinforced, it would be hard indeed!

10 And finally, there is a "period of achievement." It is here that learning is consolidated. Now what was seen as merely shadows before becomes solid gains, to be counted on in all "emergencies" as well as tranquil times. Indeed, the tranquillity is their result—the outcome of honest learning, consistency of thought, and full transfer. This is the stage of real peace, for here is Heaven's state fully reflected. From here the way to Heaven is open and easy. In fact, it is here. Who would "go" anywhere if peace of mind is already complete? And who would seek to change tranquillity for something more desirable? What could be more desirable than this?

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Part II
What is the Ego?

1 The ego is idolatry—the sign of limited and separated self, born in a body, doomed to suffer and to end its life in death. It is the will that sees the Will of God as enemy and takes a form in which It is denied. The ego is the "proof" that strength is weak and love is fearful, life is really death, and what opposes God alone is true.

2 The ego is insane. In fear it stands beyond the Everywhere, apart from All, in separation from the Infinite. In its insanity it thinks it has become a victor over God Himself, and in its terrible autonomy, it "sees" the Will of God has been destroyed. It dreams of punishment and trembles at the figures in its dreams, its enemies who seek to murder it before it can ensure its safety by attacking them.

3 The Son of God is egoless. What can he know of madness and the death of God when he abides in Him? What can he know of sorrow and of suffering when he lives in eternal joy? What can he know of fear and punishment, of sin and guilt, of hatred and attack when all there is surrounding him is everlasting peace, forever conflict-free and undisturbed in deepest silence and tranquillity?

4 To know Reality is not to see the ego and its thoughts, its works, its acts, its laws and its beliefs, its dreams, its hopes, its plans for its salvation, and the cost belief in it entails. In suffering, the price for faith in it is so immense that crucifixion of the Son of God is offered daily at its darkened shrine and blood must flow before the altar where its sickly followers prepare for death.

5 Yet will one lily of forgiveness change the darkness into light, the altar to illusions to the shrine of Life Itself. And peace will be restored forever to the holy minds which God created as His Son, His dwelling-place, His joy, His love, completely His, completely one with Him.

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Lesson 339
I will receive whatever I request.

1 No one desires pain. But he can think that pain is pleasure. No one would avoid his happiness. But he can think that joy is painful, threatening, and dangerous. Everyone will receive what he requests. But he can be confused indeed about the things he wants, the state he would attain. What can he then request that he would want when he receives it? He has asked for what will frighten him and bring him suffering. Let us resolve today to ask for what we really want, and only this, that we may spend this day in fearlessness, without confusing pain with joy or fear with love.

2 Father, this is Your day. It is a day in which I would do nothing by myself but hear Your Voice in everything I do; requesting only what You offer me, accepting only thoughts You share with me.

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Sarah's Reflections

Lesson 339
I will receive whatever I request.

 Sarah's Commentary:
 
 
What does it mean to say that whatever I receive is what I have requested? Are all my difficulties, and all the pain I experience, at my request? We think we are pursuing only what will bring us happiness, but Jesus tells us, even when we think we are pursuing happiness, we are actually pursuing pain. The reason is, we don’t know the difference between what is painful and what we think will bring us pleasure. We don’t know what will continue to imprison us and what will free us from the bondage of the ego. Jesus often talks to us about this confusion. He says here, "No one desires pain. But he can think that pain is pleasure." (W.339.1.1‑2) That is why the whole idea of manifesting can get us into difficulty. We think we know what will bring us happiness, so we attempt to use the power of the mind to manifest that very thing. Yet the ego is always confused and can never be a reliable source for determining what will bring us joy. Whatever we receive, we have requested. It is our dream, and we are the dreamer.
 
As an example of this confusion, we may be seeking a special relationship, thinking that is what will make us happy. We may be looking for someone who we believe will fulfill us, solve our feelings of loneliness, and be the knight in shining armor to rescue us from despair. We may believe this is the answer to our unhappiness. Yet many of us have experienced the pain and fear that come with special relationships. Or we may be putting our effort into a desire for security and think that working hard and making lots of money will bring us what we want, only to find we are anxious and stressed. We can take many paths, believing they will lead us to find the joy that eludes us, but they will always end up in disillusionment, even when we receive what we think we want. Only the eternal can satisfy God's Son and none of these "gifts," which we pursue in the world, have any eternal value.
 
However, we need not despair about these pursuits, even if they have ended up in disillusionment. Everything can be used for our highest good. There is an opportunity for healing in every adversity when given over to the Holy Spirit. Everything that seems to happen to us, we have asked for, and it can all be used for our learning and healing. No, we don't always want to accept that we have called it all into our lives. We don't like the idea that we are doing it all to ourselves. Clearly, we are only affected by our own thoughts, as stated in Lesson 338. We prefer to think we are at the mercy of everything that seems to happen to us. Yet Jesus affirms, "The secret of salvation is but this: That you are doing this unto yourself. No matter what the form of the attack, this is still true. Whoever takes the role of enemy and of attacker, still is this the truth. Whatever seems to be the cause of any pain and suffering you feel, this is still true." (T.27.VIII.10.1-4) (ACIM OE T.27.IX.86)
 
Although resistance to this idea is very strong, think about the power in its acceptance. The power is in the realization that we have it in us to undo all our wrong-minded decisions. There is a miracle behind each difficult situation, waiting to deliver us from it. All the miracle does is to show us what we see is false. "It merely looks on devastation, and reminds the mind that what it sees is false." (W.PII.Q13.What is a Miracle?1.3) We are the dreamer of this dream. "For you would not react at all to figures in a dream you knew that you were dreaming. Let them be as hateful and as vicious as they may, they could have no effect on you unless you failed to recognize it is your dream." (T.27.VIII.10.5-6) (ACIM OE T.27.IX.86)
 
The more we come to the realization that this is all a dream and we are dreaming it, the more we are willing to look at our own minds with the love of Jesus, looking with us and seeing it need not be. Healing happens as we look at everything that seems to happen to us, recognize our projections that are on this screen of the world, and see them as our own thoughts being played back at us. These thoughts are not what we are. We are the Perfection that is the watcher of those thoughts. As soon as we think we are our thoughts, we are in the dream; but when we see that we are the watcher of the thoughts, it is like a lucid dream where we now know we are the dreamer.
 
So why have we kept this secret of salvation from ourselves? According to Jesus, it is because of the pact we made with the ego, which is not to know our true Self. And why would we not want to know who we are in truth as perfect and innocent? We do not want to know because the ego has convinced us that we should fear God's punishment for having destroyed Him and destroyed our home and squandered His gifts. No, it is not a conscious thought, but we can know that it is what we believe every time we feel bad about ourselves, or feel we are lacking, unworthy, sad, angry, alone in the world, lost, and abandoned, or are upset and worried about our condition, or that of someone else. Those are not thoughts of God. Those are ego-based thoughts that keep us in the dream. This is why we need to take all the thoughts of sadness, suffering, and specialness to the Holy Spirit and be willing to have them dismissed.
 
Once we realize that we, ourselves, have "asked for what will frighten him [us] , and bring him [us] suffering," (W.339.1.8) we can ask for what we really want and only this. But what do we really want? Well, it is clear from this Lesson that if we don't know the answer to that question, then we have to ask Someone Who does know for us. He knows that what we truly want is what He offers us, which are His Thoughts. Our desire is to know our Self; it is to know the truth of what we are.
 
That is why the prayer says that we should do nothing by ourselves, but learn to hear His Voice in everything we do. What we think with the false self will ultimately bring pain. Only when we turn it all over to God and trust Him will we know peace, joy, and innocence, which is all we ever seek. With every upset and every difficult circumstance in our lives, we can choose to change our minds. We can choose peace. By bringing all that blocks the peace to the Holy Spirit, we are released from the bondage of the ego. He gives us His interpretation of the situation that we have judged as negative. His Answer is always, "Forgive, and you will see this differently." (W.193.3.7) "Madness and reason see the same things, but it is certain that they look upon them differently." (T.21.VI.3.9) (ACIM OE T.21.VII.61)
 
I recently realized how I had chosen to stay in pain and distress about a situation in my life because I was justifying my reasons for how I was feeling and believed I was right in my assessment of the situation. It was not until I saw that I had chosen this particular situation for my healing that I became willing to give up the "gifts" that came from suffering. What are those gifts, you may wonder? Well, I held the belief that I was right about how I saw it, and I could punish those around me whom I saw as responsible for how I was feeling. I got power from my position and could justify the separation from my brother. Until I realized the cost to me of maintaining this conflict, I was unwilling to see what I was doing. As I became willing to investigate my wrong assumptions about everything, I saw that I wanted peace more than I wanted to be right. It was available to me right now, so why wait? It is so easy to have peace when we are willing to release our story and make space for truth. What is it that you want today?
 
Love and blessings, Sarah

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