Should we bring more children into the world?

Question: Should we be bringing more children into the world, given the state of the world, overpopulation, etc.? More generally, how does the Course view the whole issue of having children?

Answer: It would be natural to suspect that the Course wouldn't be very positive about having children. Why bring more bodies into this nightmare of a world? And aren't parent-child relationships almost the epitome of special relationships? However, material that Helen took down that did not make it into the published Course makes clear that Jesus was surprisingly, even emphatically positive about children. I'll examine three blocks of material from Helen's original dictation.

Sex relations are intended for children. You and Bill have misunderstood sex, because you both regard it as a way of establishing human contact for yourselves. This has led to body-image problems.

Children are miracles in their own right. They already have the gift of life, and their parents provide them with the opportunity to express it.

Nothing physical, mental, or spiritual should be used selfishly. The pleasure from using anything should come from utilizing it for God's will.

You should live so that God is free to arrange temporary human constellations as He sees fit.

Do not interpret this in terms of guilt. Many children who are already here need spiritual parents. The poor are always with us, and many who are born have not been reborn.

Human birth, maturation, and development is a microcosmic
representation of a much larger process of Creation and
development of abilities. It is subject to error as long as the real purpose of free will is misunderstood and misdirected.

The real function of parents is to be wiser than the children in this respect, and to teach them accordingly.

Let me comment on this fascinating block of material. Jesus is saying that sex is not for establishing human contact for ourselves (a use he calls selfish), but for producing children. This, alas, is the theme of all the material that Helen took down on sex. (I know—few of us like this sex material, but it is very clear and very consistent and, I believe, flows naturally from the Course's overall assumptions, as I argued in an earlier Q&A.) The pleasure derived from sex should be the pleasure of knowing we have used it for God's Will—we have used it to allow God to bring together "temporary human constellations" —families—"as He sees fit."

"Children are miracles in their own right." They already possess "the gift of life." They already carry within themselves the miracle-working potential. The parents' job is to provide them with an opportunity to express it—meaning, provide them with a body and a life in this world. Once the children are here, the parents are then meant to guide them in developing this potential, by teaching them how to properly use their free will. To do this, the parents obviously need "to be wiser than the children in this respect." If the parents are still using their own free will to throw tantrums, they aren't going to be much help.

So Jesus puts glowing emphasis on bringing children into this world and guiding them to maturity. "Children are miracles in their own right," he says. That line never ceases to amaze me (and also comfort me, as I raise my fourth child!). But then he balances this out. He tells Helen, who never had children, "Do not intepret this in terms of guilt. Many children who are already here need spiritual parents. The [spiritually] poor are always with us, and many who are born have not been reborn." He is saying, in essence, "Don't feel guilty that you never had children. There will always be children who are spiritually poor. They have been born, but have not been spiritually reborn, and thus need spiritual parents. You can be that." He thus manages to affirm both being parents and not being parents, while in both cases emphasizing the value and importance of children.

Let's look at the next passage. This was originally miracle principle 34:

34. Miracles are a blessing from parents to children. This is just another way of phrasing the previous point about [how miracles are] "from those who have more to those who have less." Children do not belong to parents, but they do need to share their [the parents'] greater abundance. If they [the children] are deprived, their perception becomes distorted. When this occurs, the whole family of God, or the Sonship, is impaired in its relationships.

I find it quite striking that one of the original miracle principles was about parenting. That certainly says something about the importance Jesus placed in it. What he is saying here is that parenting is supposed to be miracle working! Parents are meant to constantly give their greater awareness, wisdom, and love to their children. They don't own their children, but through this flow of miracles, they are meant to raise their children to their own level, so that the children eventually share their parents' greater inner abundance. If, instead, children are deprived of this flow of miracles, "their perception becomes distorted." They won't share their parents' more healed perception, they will be split off from their parents, and as a result, the entire Sonship will be "impaired in its relationships."

Here is our final passage:

Sex was intended as an instrument for physical creation to enable Souls to embark on new chapters in their experience, and thus improve their records. The pencil was not an end in itself. (See earlier section.) It was an aid to the artist in his own creative endeavors. As he made new homes for Souls and guided them through the periods of their own developing readiness, he learned the role of the father himself. The whole process was set up as a learning experience in gaining Grace.

Here again we see the same basic perspective: Sex was not meant to be an end in itself. The pencil comment is a reference back to this earlier remark: "Remember the story about the artist who kept devoting himself to inventing better and better ways of sharpening pencils. He never created anything, but he had the sharpest pencil in town." Jesus' point is that sex is meant to actually produce something tangible in the world. Otherwise, we are just spinning our wheels. Just as the artist's pencil was meant to produce a beautiful work of art, so sex is meant to produce a child. It is intended as an instrument for making new bodies. This is not so that there could be more humans just living out human lives, but rather so that souls could enter in and further their spiritual progress—"embark on new chapters in their experience, and thus improve their records."

This not only moves the children ahead spiritually, it does the same to the parent. "As he made new homes [bodies] for Souls and guided them through the periods of their own developing readiness, he learned the role of the father himself." To learn how to be a father, or a mother, is apparently an essential part of our own development. As parents, we are meant to be artists (as Jesus' analogy of artists and pencils implies), except that our "creative endeavors" are not paintings; they are our children. Learning how to be creative in this sense—producing and guiding healthy children in this world—is presumably preparation for a heavenly version of this same role. The Course teaches many times that our ultimate role is to be a creator in Heaven, a creator who creates eternal "children" (usually called our "creations"). What a fascinating idea that being a parent is preparation for that!

I am struck by just how consistent the thought is in these three passages. They all say, in one way or another, that sex is not meant to be an end in itself, but was "intended for children." I know this is a stumbling block for many of us. It certainly is for me. Yet perhaps we can get past this and focus on the vision of parenting that we find here. It really is a beautiful vision.

What is that vision? In my understanding, it is that, as parents, we are really here to selflessly serve these souls that we bring into the world. This service even includes the sex act that brought them into this world, that gave them this opportunity to progress on their journey to God. Yet bringing them into the world just makes for a potential. In order for our children to fulfill that potential, we need to guide and teach them, because at least for now, we have more and they have less. We are meant to have gained a certain amount of wisdom, to have learned to some degree how to tap into our innate miracle-working ability. And then we are meant to pass this on to our children, through daily acts of love, understanding, forgiveness, and care. In short, as parents, we are called to be miracle workers. Through a daily flow of miracles from us to them, our health, our maturity, our inner abundance, flows to them, so that they come to share it. We start out having more, but we slowly raise them up to equality with us, by giving away all that we have. We are meant to be artists who produce the most priceless thing in this world: a beautiful human being. Then through this new miracle worker, the world can be raised just a little bit closer to Heaven.

Learning how to be this loving, caring, miracle-working parent is an essential part of our own development. Through being an earthly parent, we prepare ourselves to be a heavenly creator. And we don't even need to be literal parents to fulfill this role. For the essence of what passes from parent to child is really spiritual. As Jesus says, "Many children who are already here need spiritual parents."

We may be surprised by this emphasis on the importance of children and parenting. Yet all that Jesus has done here is what he does throughout the Course: infuse ordinary human relationships with untold spiritual significance.

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