Questions & Answers
[as it appeared in the June 2010 Newsletter]
There is nothing I like more than a good question about the Course. And by “good question“, I mean a thought provoking one – a question that makes me reassess what I currently believe and perhaps come to see it in a new light. As a result, we have a very interactive study group of Course students here in Louisville where everyone is encouraged to share their insights and questions. It is also a very diverse group with people from widely varying religious backgrounds so we get a lot of very insightful questions and I’ve been making a note of them for the last 15 years.
“There are so many spiritual teachers to choose between and some of their teachings seem to conflict. Do you have any advice on how to discern between them?”
What a great question! (And also what a delicate one, as well.)
I will share with you what has helped me in my own learning to discern whose teachings will be most helpful for me.
One of the things (and it took me years to learn) is that there are no “perfect” people for the Holy Spirit to use as teachers.
Just like you and me, dear soul, even the “big” teachers are still learning, too. Some faster than others. Some with purer hearts than others. But ALL of them are flawed, one way or another (or they just would not be in form, would they?)
And it is also important to remember that the Plan of the Atonement is so all-inclusive and yet completely gentle that each and every teacher is responding to a call from a specific set of hungry minds that can best hear the truth as it is expressed by that particular teacher’s method of explaining it.
(I call that group of people specific to each teacher their “divinely ordained target market”.)
Plus, in my own internal struggles with this question through the years, I have gotten some very specific guidance on how to discern a genuine teacher of truth that might also be helpful to you.
TIP #1: Are they empowering their students or are they “special”, claiming some unique connection to Spirit that isn’t available to EVERYONE?
It is a really bad sign if someone is claiming the latter simply because it goes against everything the Course has to say about authentic teachers – THEY teach in order to EQUALIZE.
And Spirit is simply never partial!
TIP #2: While not expected to have perfected any one of them yet, is a teacher clearly demonstrating the 10 Characteristics of a Teacher of God listed in the Course’s Manual?
And those traits are: Trust (of both God and their brothers), Honesty (what they do is consistent with what they teach), Tolerance, Gentleness, Joy, Defenselessness, Generosity, Patience, Faithfulness and Open-Mindedness.
The Manual is like the photograph on the cover of a jigsaw puzzle box – it shows what the “completed picture” looks like – in other words, how to recognize what the Course’s goal for YOU actually is by seeing its demonstration by an authentically advanced teacher.
TIP #3: Can they be questioned or are they upset or angered by it? Are they open (“Open-Minded”) to new or different information or do they reject (or ridicule) a questioner?
If the really good teachers have anything in common, in my opinion, it is that they must first be consistently devoted and committed life-long STUDENTS.
And a good student not only allows for questions but actually welcomes them as a precious gift – a way to refine their own understanding – a highly useful learning tool that, not incidentally, actually serves to underscore their innate equality with their brothers and reaffirms their actual status as the HOLY SPIRIT’s student.
And it might be helpful to remember that absolutely everyone, who is actually growing, will “graduate” from one human teacher to another human teacher as the student authentically progresses (and the teacher being graduated FROM should be happy for their students’ progression). And this process will be both natural and true until the student is ready to go straight to the Ultimate Teacher – the Holy Spirit – for themselves, once they feel confident enough to do so. This would be the natural result of a state of mind that is hopefully achieved through the love and encouragement of all their former (merely human) spiritual teachers.
That is why I try to keep reminding people that the Holy Spirit is their best and truest Teacher and that I am (along with ALL the other dedicated teachers) merely one of His MANY helpers for them until they are comfortable that they are able to recognize their own personal, INTERNAL Guidance.
The Course says that the Holy Spirit will bring to each teacher the particular souls that they can help. That fact MEANS that there will be many valid teachers with particular “divinely ordained target markets”. So don’t worry or feel guilty if a particularly popular teacher doesn’t seem to be speaking to you. It just means that you’re not in their “demographic”. Nothing more than that.
Anyway, by way of summation, just trust, dear soul, that your own path is absolutely perfect (and so is everyone else’s) and put aside any doubt or guilt and just begin taking your own first steps toward learning how to TRUST that you, too, have the God-given capacity to discern your OWN Internal Guidance.
(That’s really the only lesson that a genuine teacher of God teaches, anyway.)
* Carmen Cameron, who is a founding member of Course in Miracles Society, has been teaching classes in A Course in Miracles since 1994. She was a presenter at the 2009 Miracles Conference in San Francisco and presented again at the 2011 Conference. Carmen’s website is: http://peaceful-path.blogspot.com/