We've all seen the headlines, and everyone's talking about it: America is experiencing a financial crisis that some say is the worst since the Great Depression. Like everyone else, I have been pondering what effect the recent events on Wall Street will have on my own life. What will happen to my income, since I work full time for the Circle and our donations go down when the economy suffers? What will happen to my supplemental income performing weddings, since fewer people come to Sedona to get married when they are watching every penny? Since I am a Course student, one question is the most important of all: How can my path help me cope with this financial crisis and the distressing questions it brings up? I want to share a few Course ideas that have helped me with this. I hope they will be helpful to you too.
God has given me everything
We believe in scarcity. In this world, we try very hard to acquire the things we need to survive and prosper, but we all know that earthly things can be taken away in an instant. There's nothing like a financial crisis in which fortunes are lost overnight to bring our fear of lack and deprivation to the surface.
What a relief, then, to be told by the Course that whatever happens in this earthly illusion, we remain as God created us, and that when He created us He gave us everything. On earth we may have financial ups and downs, but in Heaven the value of our stock is always infinite. The Course emphasizes this idea that God gave us everything again and again:
God's equal Sons have everything. (T-7.III.3:3)
Reality is everything, and you have everything because you are real. (T-9.I.13:3)
What is the Will of God? He wills His Son have everything. And this He guaranteed when He created him as everything. It is impossible that anything be lost, if what you have is what you are. (T-26.VII.11:1-4)
In your own mind, though denied by the ego, is the declaration of your release. God has given you everything.…The Holy Spirit knows that you both have everything and are everything. (T-4.III.9:1-2, 5)
The last two quotes here add an important twist. Not only do we have everything, but we are everything. In fact, we have everything because we are everything. I know this all sounds very abstract and remote from our daily lives. Nevertheless, the Course assures us that this is true right now. If we really let this in, if we really believed that this were so, how could the vagaries of the economy have any effect on us?
Money is nothing
We focus so much on money and material things. This is true whether we love money or regard it as "the root of all evil." Whatever our stance toward money and material things, we think they are real and tremendously important.
The Course, however, takes a whole different stance. Rather than celebrating material things or despising them, it dismisses them as trivial illusions, not worth the slightest concern:
Your faith is placed in the most trivial and insane symbols; pills, money, "protective" clothing, influence, prestige, being liked, knowing the "right" people, and an endless list of forms of nothingness that you endow with magical powers. (W-pI.50.1:3)
[The body] puts things on itself that it has bought with little metal discs or paper strips the world proclaims as valuable and real. (T-27.VIII.2:2)
You really think you would starve unless you have stacks of green paper strips and piles of metal discs. (W-pI.76.3:2)
Money is not evil. It is nothing. (P-3.III.1:5-6)
In some of these quotes, Jesus' tone is like an anthropologist describing the incredibly bizarre and meaningless rituals of a backward people. Yet of course, the backward people here are us. We are so obsessed with money and material things. What if we were able to look upon them from his perspective? What if we could really see them as nothing? Would this not give us a whole new perspective on the "crisis" that seems to have America and the world in its grip right now?
The Holy Spirit gives me everything I need on earth to fulfill my function in His plan
Okay, so in Heaven we have everything and on earth all the stuff we chase after is nothing. But we still need provisions to live on this earth while we seem to be here, don't we?
Yes. The author of the Course fully recognizes this; what he says of therapists applies to us all: "Even an advanced therapist has some earthly needs while he is here" (P-3.III.1:3). Elsewhere, the Course acknowledges, "In your world, you do need things" (T-13.VII.10:4). Clearly, Jesus understands our situation here.
How, then, do we get those earthly needs met? The Course offers a striking answer in a beautiful passage that is much loved by students:
Once you accept His plan as the one function that you would fulfill, there will be nothing else the Holy Spirit will not arrange for you without your effort….Nothing you need will be denied you….You need take thought for nothing, careless of everything except the only purpose that you would fulfill. (T-20.IV.8:4, 6, 8)
We can boil down the teaching in this passage to the following two points:
1) If you focus only on fulfilling your function in the Holy Spirit's plan for salvation…
2) Then the Holy Spirit will give you everything you need, including material things, to fulfill your function.
Therefore, our focus should be not on getting our earthly needs met as we see them, but on discovering and fulfilling our part in the Holy Spirit's plan for salvation-what the Course elsewhere calls our special function.
This, it seems to me, is a reversal of the way we normally think. We tend to think that we must first take care of ourselves, and only then (with whatever time we have left) can we think about serving a larger function in the world. But in the Course's view, accepting our function comes first. When we do so, the Holy Spirit will give us exactly what we need to fulfill it-no more, no less. He will give it in whatever form is most suitable for His plan, which I'm sure in many cases will include finding some vocation that both provides financially and enables us to fulfill our special function (so this isn't about sitting on the couch and waiting for the Holy Spirit to show up at the door with that big check).
And He will give us the material things we need to do our function without making these things a major focus. This is the import of my favorite line in the Course about our earthly needs: "Leave, then, your needs to Him. He will supply them with no emphasis at all upon them" (T-13.VII.13:1-2).
This line tells us two very important things: First, it reassures us that the Holy Spirit will supply our earthly needs. Second, it tells us that He doesn't emphasize those needs, an attitude I think Jesus wants us to adopt as well. We should rest assured that the Holy Spirit will meet our needs as long as we do our part in His plan, and with that assurance, not spend a lot of time dwelling on them. Think of how this would change our view of the financial crisis. If we really did this, would we not lose all fear about what happens on the stock market?
I've put all of these points together into a practice that you may want to use to deal with your own fears around America's current financial situation. Simply go through the following lines, saying them as if they were your own thoughts. Really let them sink in; try to set aside your doubts and get in touch with the part of you that really knows these things are true. Apply them specifically to any fears you have around the financial crisis. Take some time with this, perhaps in the morning. Then, as you go through your day, you might choose particular lines from this practice to use on the hour, in between the hours, and whenever you are tempted to slip into fear about what all the headlines are screaming.
I hope this will enable you to see the current financial crisis from a new perspective, one in which you realize that you already have everything, the things that are causing such an uproar are nothing, and committing to your function in God's plan for salvation guarantees that you will be provided for as long as you are here.
And now, the practice:
God has given me everything. The Holy Spirit knows
that I both have everything and am everything.
This is God's Will.
How could anything be lost,
if what I have is what I am?
Money and material things are nothing.
They are neither good nor evil;
they are just empty forms.
They are trivial and insane symbols,
little metal discs and green paper strips,
an endless list of forms of nothingness
that I endow with magical powers.
Why give them such power,
when in truth they have none?
Instead, let me accept the Holy Spirit's plan
as the one function that I would fulfill.
Let me find and fulfill my special function.
If I do so, there will be nothing else
the Holy Spirit will not arrange for me without my effort.
I will leave my needs to Him.
He will supply them with no emphasis at all upon them.
Nothing I need will be denied me.
I need take thought for nothing,
careless of everything
except the only purpose that I would fulfill.
What reason could I have to be afraid,
when He is taking care of my every need?