Relationships as a Spiritual Journey
From the Author
This book is a revised and combined version of two earlier booklets that I wrote. They were two of the most popular books we have published. I hope that this expanded book will be as helpful to people seeking both to find a better way to be in relationship and to experience the love of God.
We all value relationships and hope that they will bring us the love that we all seek. Yet our relationships seem to fall short of their potential, and we wonder why. In this book, based on the contemporary spiritual teaching, "A Course in Miracles,"Robert Perry explains why and shows us how our relationships can be, not merely a source of joy, but the way for us to awaken to God and real love.
As Perry explains, for us to find this real love in our relationships, they must go through a profound tranformation that will take the form of a journey: a journey from special relationships based on the pursuit of individual interests and specialness, to holy relationships based on the pursuit of a truly common goal. This is not an overnight change, for the relationship journey, according to "A Course in Miracles," is the spiritual journey itself.
In this book, Robert Perry guides you along this journey. First, he explains what the Course teaches about special relationships, describing the dark unconscious motives that drive our relationships. Next, he describes the shift from special to holy relationships, and then he traces the stages of the holy relationship as it develops into its sublime completion.
Table of Contents
Part One: Special Relationships
- Introduction to Part One
- 1. The Pursuit of Specialness and False Innocence
- 2. The Special Love Relationship: The Great Narrowing
- 3. The Bargain
- 4. Shadow Figures from the Past
- 5. The Ultimate shadow Figure
- 6. The Healing of the Special Relationship
Part Two: Holy Relationships
- Introduction to Part Two
- 1. A Common Purpose
- 2. The Holy Relationship Is Mutual, Not Individual
- 3. Holiness Enters the Relationship
- 4. The Period of discomfort
- 5. An Exercise in Forgiving Our Savior
- 6. A Common State of Mind
- 7. Reaching the Goal of Holiness
- 8. Our Joint Special Function
Introduction by Robert Perry
Human relationships and the quest for God have traditionally not gone very well together. Our relationships are such bastions of the ego that they do not seem to really belong in the search for total enlightenment. Therefore, not only do our images of the spiritual quest often depict the aspirant trudging up the mountain by himself, but also our spiritual heroes seem to be somewhat solitary figures. Even when they are surrounded by disciples and followers they often appear to be alone, in their own world. We see them as spiritual heroes by virtue of their contact with another world, not by virtue of having whole, healthy and intimate relationships in this world.
A Course in Miracles is a departure from these traditional images, for it makes human relationships part of the spiritual quest, even central to it. In the Course's teaching we quite literally awaken to God through our relationships. They are meant to be, our salvation, not our doom (T-20.VI.11:9), and they can be our salvation if we are willing to completely restructure our definition of what they are for. As we do so, we discover that the journey home is not a solitary one, but that we awaken with our brothers. And those relationships in which we make this journey together are truly the source of our salvation (T-20.VIII.6:9).
As every Course student knows, the Course's discussion of relationships is divided into special relationships, which reinforce the ego, and holy relationships, which embody salvation. Both of these terms come from the Course and represent its unique philosophy of human relationships.
However, what that philosophy is and what those terms actually mean are issues of considerable confusion and disagreement among Course students. In the twenty years since the Course's publication, many ideas on special and holy relationships have arisen and been passed on that are not necessarily grounded in the Course itself. Indeed, many of the oldest and most widespread axioms in this area do not, in my opinion, reflect the Course. These axioms include, "there are two types of special relationships: special love and special hate," "every relationship begins as special," and, "it takes only one to make a relationship holy."
The primary purpose of this book is simply to define the terms "special relationships" and "holy relationships" and present the philosophy concerning them. Before we can transform these relationships it helps to be clear on what the Course is teaching about them. In fact, such teaching provides the foundation for the transformation. As such, this book is more of a "text" than a "workbook." It does contain some exercises in practical application; however, its main thrust is in presenting the overall framework of the Course's philosophy on special and holy relationships.
This book is a revised and combined version of two booklets which I wrote as #2 and #5 in this series (in which this book is #18). They were entitled, Special Relationships: Illusions of Love, and Holy Relationships: The End of an Ancient Journey. They have been two of our most popular booklets, and it now seemed appropriate to us to combine them and update them. I wrote these booklets based on close studies of the material in the Course which discusses special and holy relationships. Writing them provided a foundation on which my understandings could grow over the years, and this has occurred. Further, some of my understandings have not only deepened, but changed. I see now that I fell prey to some of the inaccurate lore that has grown up, and manufactured some of my own as well. For example, whereas my original booklet on special relationships reflected the common understanding that special relationships come in two classes—special love and special hate—I now believe that this schema has no foundation in the Course itself (see my discussion at the end of Chapter 1 of Part I).
Therefore, in this book the two original booklets have been revised, expanded and (in some places) corrected. This has meant expanding several of the chapters and adding two chapters to the discussion of holy relationships—a chapter on why it takes two to make a holy relationship, and one that includes an extended forgiveness process. However, in the midst of these changes I have kept the basic structure of the original booklets intact, which is why the book is divided into Part I, on special relationships, and Part II, on holy relationships.
Excerpt from Part One, Chapter 4
The Course, however, places much more importance on another highly related phenomenon. This is what it calls the "shadow figures," which the Course discusses in three sections in the Text: 13.IV, 13.V, 17.III (the concept behind shadow figures is also discussed in 16.VII, and the term is mentioned again briefly in 29.IV.5:6). The importance of these discussions is often overlooked because it is hard to discern just what the Course means by "shadow figures."
Shadow figures, just as the term sounds, are mental ghosts. They are mental images of particular people from our past, people who still live in our minds as sources of pain, with whom we occasionally hold inner dialogues, whom we project onto current partners, to whom we still have something to prove. In short, they are mental ghosts of people who did not give us the specialness we craved. And because no one gave us everything we wanted—since no one made us perfectly happy—everyone from our past to some degree fits into this category. I think, however, that the main people in this category were those wholoom largest in our minds: people who seriously mistreated or neglected us, or people from whom we expected so much that it was impossible for them to deliver. There is little doubt that parents place at or near the top of most shadow figure rosters.
Our strategy here is obvious. We feel that the past wounded us and we would desperately like to heal those wounds. But the past is gone. It cannot be changed. What, then, to do? We will bring the past into the present. We will put on a play that re-enacts the past. This time, however, we will change the ending. This time there will be a happy ending. We will be the hero, we will get the love and recognition denied us the first time around. All injustices will be rectified, all wrongs made right, and we will be redeemed.
...the special relationship is an attempt to re-enact the pastand change it. Imagined slights, remembered pain, pastdisappointments, perceived injustices and deprivations all enterinto the special relationship, which becomes a way in which youseek to restore your wounded self-esteem (T-16.VII.1:2-3).
By seeking to correct the past, we are really trying to show the shadow figures which haunt our mental attic that they were wrong about us. We are trying to prove that we did not deserve the treatment they gave us. In other words, we are seeking vengeance on them. "The special relationship takes vengeance on the past" (T-16.VII.2:1). "The shadowy figures from the past...carry the spots of pain in your mind, directing you to attack in the present in retaliation for the past that is no more" (T-13.IV.6:1,3). "In the special relationship it does not seem to be an acting out of vengeance that you seek. And even when the hatred and the savagery break briefly through, the illusion of love is not profoundly shaken" (T-16.VII.5:2). Our relationships do not seem vengeance-based merely because we choose not to see that they are.
This process of bringing back the past, says the Course, is universally present in all of our special relationships. We need not be consciously thinking about the past for this process to be occurring. "No special relationship is experienced in the present. Shades of the past envelop it, and make it what it is. It has no meaning in the present..." (T-16.VII.2:3-5). "There is no fantasy that does not contain the dream of retribution for the past" (T-16.VII.4:2). In other words, all that we have talked about thus far in terms of the special relationship needs to be viewed in this light. Let us, therefore, take the themes of the last three chapters and see how these look in light of our attachment to the past.
ReviewsAdd Your Review
Tell a Friend
|Your cart is currently empty|