Is it right to seek guidance from sources outside the Spirit within?

Q. I find that many Course students are contacting mediums and seeking guidance from other spiritual beings. I am confused. I have always thought that the course was leading us to the Christ Spirit or Creator within. I thought we should only contact the Christ within us through meditation from which we receive our guidance. I realize that it may be a stage of growth that anyone could possibly go through but isn’t it the objective of the course to lead us only to rely on the Spirit within?

A. You know, I see this somewhat differently. If we are all one, why must we seek guidance from the Spirit only from within? Doesn’t that imply a separation?

Having said that, I don’t think it is quite as simple as that. For example, since I regard the Course as my path, I don’t seek spiritual teaching from other channeled sources, or embodied teachers, for that matter. The wisdom in the Course is, in many significant respects, distinct from that of other teachings, and that wisdom is meant for me. So why would I want to water it down by mixing it with other teachings, however edifying their wisdom may be for their followers? Just by opening the Course, I can encounter priceless teaching that I can find nowhere else, and that speaks to my personal condition so well that it feels like the author is inside my head. Why would I need to go searching somewhere else? (For an article of mine on relying on the Course for spiritual teaching, see here.)

Yet I need more from the Spirit than spiritual teaching. I also need personal guidance, and that, by definition, cannot come through a book written for a broad spectrum of people. Where do I go for the guidance I need for my life right now? The Course tells me, and even trains me, to turn to the Holy Spirit within. Yet when we turn within not all of us have a wide open channel. While we are training ourselves to open up and widen that channel, what do we do?

I think it is perfectly acceptable to turn to others who have a more open channel than we currently do. (Of course, making a correct assessment that their channel really is more open is crucial). After all, those others are our brothers, who in the end are not really other at all. If we will not let them help us by passing on a message from the Spirit, will we let them help us at all? And if we refuse all help, how is that not a stance of pride? How is that not separation in the extreme? Jesus pleads with us in the Course to let him help us. Listen here to his basis for asking that: “Hold me dear, for what except your brothers can you need? We will restore to you the peace of mind that we must find together” (T-13.VII.16:3-4; emphasis added).

A little known fact is that the dictation of the Course began coming through when Helen decided that her newfound ability to hear Jesus’ voice was not just meant for herself, but for Bill as well. He was having trouble hearing; he asked, but didn’t receive anything. As a result, he wanted Helen to ask for a “list” for him (which appears to have been a list of people he was meant to help). So Helen asked Jesus if it was OK that she ask for him (the quotes that follow are from the shorthand notebooks in which she would soon be taking down the Course dictation):

He [Jesus] promised to come when He was called on and Bill asks [for guidance] and does not receive and has really tried to knock and it has not been opened to him. I think the door is ajar a bit, but I really wouldn’t call it very open. Is it all right if I ask you for him since he wants me to?

In response, Jesus gave her a number of instructions to pass on to Bill about receiving guidance: to wait longer after asking before giving up, to have more confidence that he will hear, to learn better concentration, and to not put Helen on a pedestal as the one who was in contact.

At first, Helen was angry to be asked to get guidance for Bill, thinking that, as she said, “it was a form of exploitation that was very dangerous for me, and represented an avoidance technique for you.” But then she realized the real source of her resentment: “I might just resent asking for someone else because I prefer the ‘exclusive’ idea.” Like a newscaster landing an exclusive interview, she wanted to keep Jesus all to herself. Having realized that, and under the inspiration of Jesus, she wrote the following to Bill:

You have every right, in fact, you should, ask me to ask for you. This is not a selfish gift, and it is a real one (this upsets me, too). It has to be used for others, and particularly you.

Jesus then broke in and said, “Ask Bill please to help you get over being mean about it fast.” This acceptance that her ability to hear was “not a selfish gift” was apparently pivotal. Two sentences later, the dictation of A Course in Miracles began.

I find this episode to be extremely instructive, with lessons for all of us. If we are like Helen, our lesson is to share our gift, and not keep it to ourselves in an effort to elevate ourselves. If we are like Bill, our lesson is to learn how to hear guidance and not put on a pedestal those who already hear, but also to make use of open channels who have been sent to help us. Of course, with Bill, who that open channel was was no mystery. With us, however, it is probably a much more complex decision.

Whether we are like Helen or like Bill, though, there is only one Spirit, Who is trying to extend through each of us to reach all of us, just as He did through Helen. Surely our priority is on hearing that Spirit, no matter what form His message takes, or what person He reaches us through. And in that hearing, our brothers can be priceless aids. Yes, we need to develop our own ability to hear, but on the way to that, we need not be ashamed about leaning on them. For what except our brothers can we need?

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