How do we reconcile our unique, individual "special function" with the Course’s contention that there is no unique individuality?

Question: I'm confused by T-25.VI.5:8-10. It speaks of being a unique individual with a special function on which the entire plan of salvation depends. Is the Course saying that it's okay to see oneself as a unique individual, yet at the same time to try to incorporate the idea that there is no unique individuality, but rather only one Self that we share? That seems like an insane endeavor.

Answer: To answer your question, I think it will be helpful to quote the longer passage of which your lines are a part:

Here, where the laws of God do not prevail in perfect form, can he yet do one perfect thing and make one perfect choice. And by this act of special faithfulness to one perceived as other than himself, he learns the gift was given to himself, and so they must be one. Forgiveness is the only function meaningful in time. It is the means the Holy Spirit uses to translate specialness from sin into salvation. Forgiveness is for all. But when it rests on all it is complete, and every function of this world completed with it. Then is time no more. Yet while in time, there is still much to do. And each must do what is allotted him, for on his part does all the plan depend. He has a special part in time for so he chose, and choosing it, he made it for himself. His wish was not denied but changed in form, to let it serve his brother and himself, and thus become a means to save instead of lose. (T-25.VI.4:1-5:11)

There's an entire process sketched out here. First, we made specialness. As we learn elsewhere in the Course, we did so in order to preserve the illusion of separate, unique selves. As it says here, we made it to "harm." Yet it is a fundamental principle of the Course that whatever we made to serve the goal of separateness, the Holy Spirit can transform into something that serves the goal of salvation. This is what He has done with specialness. In His "kind perception" of specialness, it is transformed into a means "to heal instead of harm," "a means to save instead of lose," a way for each person to "serve his brother and himself" rather than to serve himself alone.

The Holy Spirit's kind perception of specialness takes the form of giving each person "a special function in salvation he alone can fill; a part for only him." The content of this special function is forgiveness, "the only function meaningful in time." The form, we are told elsewhere, "is suited to your special needs, and to the special time and place in which you think you find yourself" (T-25.VII.7:3). "Seeing your strengths exactly as they are, and equally aware of where they can be best applied, for what, to whom and when" (W-pI.154.2:2), He gives you a special function that is uniquely suited to the individual you believe yourself to be. This function is a particular form of forgiving that fits you as nothing else would.

This special function always involves serving others; again, it is a way for each to "serve his brother and himself." As each person finds and fulfills his special function, as each does that one perfect thing and makes one perfect choice (in this passage, it is forgiving your holy relationship partner), something amazing happens. "By this act of special faithfulness to one perceived as other than himself, he learns the gift was given to himself, and so they must be one." It logically follows that as everyone finds and fulfills his special function, when forgiveness rests on all and every function is complete, everyone will recognize their oneness with each other. "Then is time no more."

Do you see what has happened here? Each person has a "special" function because it is for him alone, but since it is a special function "in salvation," it paradoxically uses specialness to end specialness. I find this both ingenious and amazingly practical. The fact is, we do believe we're these unique individuals who have things to do here. If the Holy Spirit just said "Throw all that away!" our resistance would be so enormous that we would probably never do it. And without a meaningful function in God's plan, what would we be doing with our time? Serving the ego, of course. I'm reminded of the saying, "Idle hands are the devil's workshop." So, instead of having us chuck the whole idea of specialness, the Holy Spirit says, "Okay, use the unique individuality you believe in as a means to transcend unique individuality."

So, to answer your question: I don't think it's so much a matter of the Course saying that it's "okay" to see oneself as a unique individual. I think the Course is simply acknowledging the fact that we do see ourselves that way. What it does, through the special function, is teach us to use that apparent unique individuality as a means to learn that there really is only one Self that we share. Far from being an "insane endeavor," I think it is positively brilliant.

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