Should we be guided by the words of the Course or directly by the Holy Spirit?

Question: Does the Course give us any reason to expect that we can, or will, audibly hear God or Jesus speaking to us, similar to what Jesus did for Helen? Does the Course teach that a natural progression of Course-based spiritual maturity will lead to our being more guided by inner guidance of the Holy Spirit than by the words in the Text, Workbook, or Manual?

In my experience with various Course teachers, readers, and leaders, there seems to be a segment who fall more into channeling and "rely on Holy Spirit Guidance" more than the Text, or, to put that another way, they use the Text or Workbook as a jumping off point to go right into inner guidance and spirit voice. Then there's another segment who place much less emphasis on "inner voices" and much more on reading and applying and meditating on the words of the Course itself.

Answer: This is a great question. Both ways—sticking to the Course or relying instead on inner guidance—are out there, and either one can seem like the truly spiritual way. I believe that in the end, however, this is a false dichotomy.

Before going into that, I will say that, yes, the Course does teach that a natural progression of maturity on its path will lead to being increasingly guided by the Holy Spirit. The Course suggests that through our work with the Text and Workbook, we will learn how to quiet our minds and hear His Voice, though that may not take the form of hearing an audible voice (actually, even Helen didn't hear that).

Given this, the approach that says that we should not really take seriously all that teaching about receiving guidance, but should just stick with the Course itself instead, isn't really sticking with the Course itself. The Text repeatedly tells us to listen to the Holy Spirit for all our decisions and the Workbook lengthily trains us to actually hear His Voice. How do you stick with the Course and disregard all that?

There is the idea floating around that listening for the Holy Spirit's guidance is something you only do on the lower rungs, before you really "get it." This view usually claims that The Song of Prayer makes all this very clear, saying that as we ascend the ladder of prayer, we stop asking for guidance in the realization that the Holy Spirit is really just a metaphor. That, however, is a misreading of The Song of Prayer. Instead, it teaches that as we ascend the ladder of prayer, we slowly stop asking specific questions of the Holy Spirit because we want to give Him more freedom to speak as He sees fit. We are still being guided by Him. Indeed, we are almost certainly far more guided. The difference is that now He speaks to us as He sees fit, without having to fit into the boxes of our questions.

Given all this, it may seem like the truly advanced condition is one in which we dispense with dusty old books and get everything straight from the Source within us. We start channeling the Holy Spirit and, most likely, start looking for a publisher. Now we are getting it straight from the horse's mouth and no longer need to study some book outside of us. I remember reading an interview with one bestselling channel who had previously dabbled in the Course. He said that he didn't really understand the Course when he was reading it, but then added, "But I guess I do now." He was getting the Course, in a sense, but from within himself.

Unfortunately, his actual channeling didn't bear that out. Indeed, I haven't seen anyone's channeling that is remotely like the Course. When I look over such material, I quickly spot all sorts of inconsistencies with the Course and inevitably notice that a few popular Course themes are visited repeatedly, leaving out hundreds of other themes. For some reason, such channeling seems dependent on what students have already noticed in the Course, even though most of the Course's themes have not yet been noticed.

In other words, if you are a Course student, get your spiritual teaching from the Course itself. This is just pure practicality. You will simply get better teaching that way. The reason is simple: Helen Schucman had an extremely rare gift for bringing through profound spiritual teaching. I don't think we have seen the equal to it. And I doubt we will very soon. Mozart had a rare gift for bringing through beautiful music. Helen had a rare gift for bringing through profound teaching. To admit that I don't have that gift is not selling myself short. It is simple honesty.

This goes directly against the boomeritis idea that it's more real and more authentic if it comes from within me. But isn't that the height of narcissism? If I channel 2 + 2 = 8, it's not more profound or more "right for me." It's just incorrect. I think there is a spiritual glamour around channeling that we need to be aware of and consciously resist.

I remember seeing someone supposedly channel the author of the Course in front of an audience. The channel was asked a difficult question, and he said he would have to ask the Big Guy. Everyone knew what that meant and a hush fell over the room. What followed was about fifteen minutes of what sounded to me like an incomprehensible mishmash. However, the questioner and the audience were stunned with its profundity. I could only conclude that their reaction wasn't due to the quality of the material, but to the phenomenon of channeling.

Therefore, don't look to your own inner guidance to give you the highest quality spiritual teaching. Inner guidance will often give spiritual teaching. That's one of its purposes. And that teaching may have tremendous impact because it is spoken directly to you and tailored to your individual needs in this moment. But the quality of the teaching will not be at the level of the Course (just as any music you channel will not be at the level of Mozart), and you would do well to measure what you do receive against the Course, and set aside what doesn't measure up.

On the other hand, do not look to the Course to make your decisions for you. It can't do it. We often try to make decisions by applying Course principles. "Well, if my husband is the Son of God and we are eternally one, then obviously I shouldn't leave him." In essence, we assume that in such a situation, the Course-based thing would always look like this. I think such an approach is misguided. The right decision is always a case-by-case thing. And that is why the Holy Spirit needs to guide our decisions. We need to hear what He thinks about this particular case. If we could predict what He would say based on abstract spiritual principles, then we wouldn't need His guidance. But we can't, and we do.

Perhaps you can see why I called the choice of relying on inner guidance or on the words of the Course a false dichotomy. Rely on the words of the Course for spiritual teaching. Rely on those words to guide and direct you in your spiritual path. Turn to inner guidance, on the other hand, for making decisions. Let it tell you how the Course's principles apply in particular situations. If you swing too far one way, you will get inferior teaching. If you swing too far the other, you will make inferior decisions. If I were you, I would treasure both.

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