Is It a Sin to Have a Special Function?

A Circle Course Community member wrote:

After today's class, I had an uncomfortable feeling that I couldn't quite put my finger on. The idea that kept swirling in my mind was this: "It is sinful to be special." Then I called to mind people who use their role as healer, therapist, etc., to promote their own specialness and then say that what they are doing is "ordained by a higher source."

But, of course, traveling deeper into the projection I saw how scared I was that this desire for specialness still lurked within me. Its so much safer to see it in others! The fear came up that this evil darkness will find a way to infiltrate my role and I'll be left dreaming. Now the conflict begins. I have an inner desire to be truly helpful and know that as I let the Holy Spirit teach me to heal, I am healed. But to think of this as a "special" function brings up my guilt. After all, it was the desire to be special and unique that got me dreaming in the first place. So instead of being excited about the topic today, all I felt was guilt. Now that it is in my awareness, it becomes my work to do with the Holy Spirit. But I thought if I had this reaction, did others as well? Even if they can't name it, it may look like disdain for the subject, rejection of the whole idea entirely, judgment of others who embrace this idea, etc. 

As a suggestion, I wonder if this could be addressed in the classes or in writing. Maybe something like "it is not a sin to have a special function."

This is a great topic you have raised, as I think a lot of Course students do reject the notion of the special function because it sounds vaguely sinful. It certainly sounds arrogant: "I've got this very special Work to do in the world for God. But I don't claim any credit. I just stand aside; I'm just a humble vessel for God to work through." We all sense the thinly veiled arrogance in such words. Given that, it is tempting to reject the entire notion of a Spirit-inspired special function, which is apparently what Ken Wapnick does:

These special ones then proceed, "under instructions" of course, to give these special messages to special people who then use these special words as the basis for constructing their special and very important visionary castles in the sky under the umbrella of A Course in Miracles. And all the time their ego's ugly specialness is concealed beneath the "Holy Spirit's" very important work. Jesus not only does not want martyrs (T-6.I.16:3), he does not want missionaries. (The Message of 'A Course in Miracles': Volume Two: Few Choose to Listen, p. 141).

There are a number of things to say about this issue. First, the special function is special, but its specialness is only in form, not in content. It is a case of me using my unique abilities to make a unique contribution to the world's salvation. However, the way I actually make that contribution is to give to others, as the Urtext says, "nothing but an acknowledgment of equality and worth." Equality, of course, is the opposite of specialness. So the form of my function is special, but the content is the reversal of specialness. It is the acknowledgment of equality.

The Course actually addresses, a number of times, the notion that accepting our function is arrogance. When it does, its answer is always the same: It is not arrogance to accept a role in the world's salvation, but arrogance to reject it, for doing so implies that we know better than God. He may think we have a part to play in the salvation of the world, but from our position on high, we know better.

The fullest statement of this is Lesson 186, "Salvation of the world depends on me." I highly recommend reading the entire lesson, slowly and thoughtfully, with the special function in mind. It doesn't use the term "special function" (just "function"), but that is what it's about. The words "role" and "part" (each used repeatedly) are clues, as these words often function as synonyms for our special function. You can especially see the special function focus when it speaks of our belief that we lack "the strength, the wisdom and the holiness" (6:2; see also 4:3) to do the part assigned to us. Anyway, I urge you to read this lesson slowly, keeping in mind that its purpose is to take away the belief it is arrogant to embrace your special function.

It is true that perhaps the biggest trap in the special function is using it to enhance one's specialness. So many fall into that trap. I suspect everyone does to some degree. Unfortunately, though, I think those of us who eschew a special function because we want to be humble and non-special are falling into another version of the same overall trap.

What is that trap? It's the idea that this is really about us. One side says, "My special function shows how special I am." The other side says, "Not taking on a special function shows how unwilling I am to puff myself up with specialness (i.e., how pure I am)." As a result, both sides think that what is really at issue here is our image, how we come off looking, both to others and to ourselves. Both sides betray a love affair with our image. And that image, as the Course points out, is really a graven image, an idol. It is the false god we worship above the real God.

In the Urtext, in discussing Bill Thetford's reticence to teach, Jesus paralleled two roles which seem to be opposites. One was the egotistical teacher who hopes his ego will be exalted through the positive impression it makes on his students. The other was the fearful teacher who is "afraid of the impression [his] image will make on other images." Both have the same basic problem. Jesus refers to "the ego-oriented teacher's goal" and says,

He is concerned with the effect of his ego on other egos, and he therefore interprets their interaction as a means of ego preservation. This is no less true if he is afraid to teach than if he is frankly out to dominate through teaching. The form of the symptom is only a reflection of his particular way of handling the separation anxiety.

Thus, these two seeming opposites-being afraid to teach and being out to dominate through teaching—are both concerned with the same thing: the impression their image will make on other images.

Against both of these, Jesus offers a third role, the antidote to both. This is the role of the "devoted teacher," a term he uses four times. The term by itself says it all. This teacher is actually devoted to the students. He is not devoted to his image, but to his students. I think we all realize these are mutually exclusive options. Any devotion we give to one we automatically take away from the other.

The special function is not about us, it is about the people we will help. When we really get in touch with that, with the need that is out there, and with the fact that we can do something about that need, I think these questions fall away. If you see a child in the street about to be hit by a car, and you are the only one in a position to stop this from happening, do you think "Who am I to think I can help?" Do you think, "I'm so special to be the savior here"? Or do you just act? Of course, this is a situation that is so rare it hardly seems applicable. Yet what if, in essence, this is the situation we are in right now?

The Course actually encourages a version of this "child in the road" mentality. We can call it the celestial speedup mentality. When Helen asked why was she taking down A Course in Miracles, this is what she heard:

According to this "information," the world situation was worsening at an alarming pace. People all over the world were being called back to help…each making his individual contribution to an overall, prearranged plan. I had apparently agreed to take down a course in miracles which the Voice would dictate to me as part of the agreement, and my doing it was actually my reason for coming….People had reached a point where they were losing more than they were gaining. Thus, because of the acute emergency, the usual slow, evolutionary process of spiritual development was being by-passed in what might be called a "celestial speed-up." (Absence from Felicity, p. 200)

Do you feel the urgency in this? There is an acute emergency. The world situation is worsening at an alarming pace. People are being called back to help. The usual slow process is being speeded up. Helen had agreed to do her part and this is actually why she came to this earth. Is it possible that this applies to more than Helen? Could it apply to us as well?

We actually find this same urgency about taking up our function in many places through the Course. See if you can catch that note of urgency in the following quotes:

I am making His plan perfectly explicit to you, and will also tell you of your part in it, and how urgent it is to fulfill it. (T-5.VII.4:4)

You now share my inability to tolerate lack of love in yourself and in everyone else, and must join the Great Crusade to correct it. (original version of T-1.III.1:6)

There is much to do, and we have been long delayed. Accept the holy instant as this year is born, and take your place, so long left unfulfilled, in the Great Awakening. (T-15.XI.10:9-10)

Do not withhold salvation longer. Look about the world, and see the suffering there. Is not your heart willing to bring your weary brothers rest? (W-pI.191.10:6-8)

Jesus even tells us, more than once, that the world's salvation "waits" on us doing our part:

And while you fail to teach what you have learned, salvation waits and darkness holds the world in grim imprisonment. (W-pI.153.11:3)

I have a special place to fill; a role for me alone. Salvation [of the world] waits until I take this part as what I choose to do. (W-pII.317.1:1-2)

This, I believe, is what we need—the celestial speedup mentality. Not "I'm God's very special messenger" or "I'm too pure and humble to pursue a 'special' role," but "The world is in need and I came here to do my part. Until I do my part, people suffer. And not just people in general; particular people I came to help."

The Manual for Teachers poignantly captures the supreme importance of doing our part. It calls the entire plan for salvation "the plan of the teachers" (M-1.2:10), implying that salvation depends on the teachers. And then it comes right out and says that in these moving words:

Into this hopeless and closed learning situation, which teaches nothing but despair and death, God sends His teachers. And as they teach His lessons of joy and hope, their learning finally becomes complete.
Except for God's teachers there would be little hope of salvation, for the world of sin would seem forever real. (M-In.4:7-5:1)

Notice that last line: "Except for God's teachers, there would be little hope of salvation." That is an extremely powerful line. Yet actually, that is the weaker, edited version. The editors inserted the word "little" in place of what was originally there. What Helen actually took down was this:

Except for God's teachers, there would be no hope of salvation.

Let us realize, then, that our special function is not about us, not about our image. The stakes are much larger than that. There are people out there who are hurting, people who need our help. The world is in need, and we came to do our part. We made an agreement before we entered this life. Isn't it about time we keep it?

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