Questions & Answers
By Carmen Cameron*
[as it appeared in the February 2011 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.
Question: HOLINESS ~ What does it MEAN? And what does it have to do with ME?!?
Answer: MANY of us struggle with the idea that we are “holy” when repeatedly presented with that as an unalterable FACT throughout the Course and especially in some of the early Workbook lessons. (e.g. One of my favorites, “There is nothing my holiness cannot do.” Lesson 38)
I think that our resistance to the idea that we are holy is based on the concept of “holiness” that we are taught by mainstream religions, a concept that makes a separate class of people (the “saints” of all religions) special amongst us. The common understanding is that “holiness” is the exception, not the norm. And that it is something one has to “earn” by constantly fighting against temptation – an “earning” that proves our worthiness to become God’s “adopted children” (according to St. Paul). It is an incredibly difficult requirement for most humans to accomplish.
“Holiness” is not believed to be inherent in God’s creations. What God created must work for holiness. And failure is expected.
EXAMPLE, from the New Catholic Dictionary (online at: http://saints.sqpn.com/ncd03965.htm)
“Holiness (from Anglo-Saxon: perfect, or whole) – In the Old Testament the Hebrew, kadosch (holy), signified separation from the profane [they do not define “profane” anywhere in this dictionary], dedication to God’s service… Applied to God it sets forth His separation from, and opposition to all evil. Outside of God only that is holy which has some relation to Him. Holiness of creatures can be subjective, objective, or both. Subjective holiness in rational creatures consists essentially in sanctifying grace (separation from sin, possession of virtue). Objective holiness in any creature denotes its exclusive dedication to the service of God: priests by ordination, religious by vows, sacred vessels, vestments, etc., either by consecration or by blessing.”
Note that “holiness” is said to encompass the ideas of “separation from the [undefined] profane”, “opposition to evil” and “separation from sin” and (my personal favorite) being “holy” by virtue of an external and ritualized “consecration or by blessing” by an authorized human being (as in “holy water” and priestly vestments), none of which is readily accessible to ordinary human beings.
Is it any wonder, then, that we are resistant to the notion that WE are holy – by nature and by right?!? And unalterably? Hard to accept! But that is what the Course says again and again. So now let’s take a look at what one of my favorite Course expert has to say about “holiness”. From Robert Perry’s Glossary of Terms (available online at: http://www.circleofa.org/glossary/h.php):
“Holiness, Holy – A quality of divine innocence or purity, untainted by the slightest sin, guilt or impurity. A quality that comes from God to those things that are like Him. Holiness is the natural condition of God’s creations and is shared. It is characterized not by separation from the impure (as in some traditional notions), but by oneness with all things. It can never be tainted or lost, only obscured. Salvation comes through overlooking all unholiness and seeing again the native holiness in others and in oneself …”
Okay, now we’re not struggling to be “holy”; we just ARE holy, because we’re made by God and God can only make the WHOLE. It is now something that isn’t “earned” but merely RECOGNIZED (or re-membered, as Jesus says, quite literally and consciously re-attached to our sense of self) through our understanding that we are “one with all things”.
And here is one of the most telling descriptions in the Course of what that MEANS:
“I thank you, Father, knowing you will come to close each little gap that lies between the broken pieces of Your holy Son. Your Holiness, complete and perfect, lies in every one of them. And they ARE joined, because what is in one IS in them all. How holy is the smallest grain of sand, when it is recognized as being part of the completed picture of God’s Son! The forms the broken pieces seem to take mean nothing. For the Whole is in each one. And every aspect of the Son of God is just the same as every other part. Join not your brother’s dreams, but join with HIM, and where you join His Son, the Father IS.” T-28.IV.9 – 10.1
Soooo…your holiness and my holiness are part and parcel of our creation by God as an “aspect of the Son of God”, seen through physical eyes as a separate “broken piece” but, in fact, inseparable from not just the obviously sentient other aspects but also from even the tiniest of and most insignificant inanimate components of the world.
I am one with ALL of that. And it is one with me. So I cannot be broken, separated off or less than whole in ANY way.
From the Urtext: “God WOULD be mocked if ANY of his creations lacked holiness. The Creation IS whole. The mark of Wholeness is Holiness, not holes. The Sonship has no holes anywhere.”
This is one of those times in the early dictation where Jesus is “playing with words”, something he did for two reasons that he, himself, made clear elsewhere:
1) to show Bill (who loved word-play) that he was dear to Jesus; and
2) because it made things “easy to remember”.
(Helen, herself, clearly states in the notes that she doesn’t like these kinds of sayings, comparing them to doggerel, so not surprisingly, this and all similar, often humerous, sayings were deleted prior to publication.)
The point being that Jesus is associating “holiness” with its root word and source, “wholeness”. This urtext quote was immediately followed by the miracle principle that stresses the connection between our ability to perceive (or project) God’s creations’ natural state of “wholeness” and miracles:
“36. Wholeness is the perceptual content of the miracle…thus corrects (or atones for) the faulty perception of lack.” FIP Miracle Principle # 41
Ahha! Wholeness is the miracle’s correction for LACK! This is important because: “…’lack’…does not exist in the Creation of God, it is VERY apparent in the creations of man. It is, in fact, the essential difference.”
It is our perception of lack – i.e., limitation – in every form it takes that obscures our holiness/wholeness from our minds.
But the Holy Spirit – “The Great Transformer of perception” – will give us vision (once we’re open and willing to see our wholeness as reflected in the interconnectedness of all things) that…
“The smallest leaf becomes a thing of wonder, and a blade of grass a sign of God’s perfection. From the forgiven world, the Son of God is lifted easily into his home.” T-17.II.6.3 – 7.1
Bottom line: There are no holes in you. No limits. No gaps. No lacks. The perception of them in yourself – or in anyone else – in ANY form, is a denial of the truth of you. The acceptance of your oneness with the entirety of creation calls on the power of the entire universe to deny whatever illusions you have made from your erroneous perception of yourself as weak and alone or inadequate. And from that wholeness, you can rest in peace. And holiness.
* 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 is scheduled to present again at the 2011 Conference. Carmen’s website is: http://peaceful-path.blogspot.com/