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A COURSE IN MIRACLES Chapter 15 The Holy Instant

VII.  The Needless Sacrifice

1. Beyond the poor attraction of the special love relationship, and always obscured by it, is the powerful attraction of the Father for His Son.  There is no other love that can satisfy you because there is no other love.  This is the only love that is fully given and fully returned.  Being complete, it asks nothing.  Being wholly pure, everyone joined in it has everything.  This is not the basis for any relationship in which the ego enters.  For every relationship on which the ego embarks is special.

2. The ego establishes relationships only to get something.  And it would keep the giver bound to itself through guilt.  It is impossible for the ego to enter into any relationship without anger, for the ego believes that anger makes friends.  This is not its statement, but it is its purpose.  For the ego really believes that it can get and keep by making guilty.  This is its one attraction; an attraction so weak that it would have no hold at all, except that no one recognizes it.  For the ego always seems to attract through love and has not attraction at all to anyone who perceives that it attracts through guilt.

3. The sick attraction of guilt must be recognized for what it is.  For having been made real to you, it is essential to look at it clearly, and by withdrawing your investment in it, to learn to let it go.  No one would choose to let go what he believes has value.  Yet the attraction of guilt has value to you only because you have not looked at what it is and have judged it completely in the dark.  As we bring it to light, your only question will be why it was you ever wanted it.  You have nothing to lose by looking open-eyed, for ugliness such as this belongs not in your holy mind.  This host of God can have no real investment here.

4. We said before that the ego attempts to maintain and increase guilt, but in such a way that you do not recognize what it would do to you.  For it is the ego’s fundamental doctrine that what you do to others you have escaped.  The ego wishes no one well.  Yet its survival depends on your belief that you are exempt from its evil intentions.  It counsels, therefore, that if you are host to it, it will enable you to direct its anger outward, thus protecting you.  And thus it embarks on an endless, unrewarding chain of special relationships, forged out of anger and dedicated to but one insane belief, that the more anger you invest outside yourself, the safer you become.

5. It is this chain that binds the Son of God to guilt, and it is this chain the Holy Spirit would remove from his holy mind.  For the chain of savagery belongs not around the chosen host of God, who cannot make himself host to the ego.  In the name of his release, and in the Name of Him Who would release him, let us look more closely at the relationships the ego contrives, and let the Holy Spirit judge them truly.  For it is certain that if you will look at them, you will offer them gladly to Him.  What He can make of them you do not know, but you will become willing to find out, if you are willing first to perceive what you have made of them.

6. In one way or another, every relationship the ego makes is based on the idea that by sacrificing itself, it becomes bigger.  The “sacrifice,” which it regards as purification, is actually the root of its bitter resentment.  For it would prefer to attack directly and avoid delaying what it really wants.  Yet the ego acknowledges “reality” as it sees it and recognizes that no one could interpret direct attack as love.  Yet to make guilty is direct attack, although it does not seem to be.  For the guilty expect attack and having asked for it they are attracted to it.

7. In such insane relationships, the attraction of what you do not want seems to be much stronger than the attraction of what you do want.  For each one thinks that he has sacrificed something to the other and hates him for it.  Yet this is what he thinks he wants.  He is not in love with the other at all.  He merely believes he is in love with sacrifice.  And for this sacrifice, which he demands of himself, he demands that the other accept the guilt and sacrifice himself as well.  Forgiveness becomes impossible, for the ego believes that to forgive another is to lose him.  It is only by attack without forgiveness that the ego can ensure the guilt that holds all its relationships together. 

8. Yet they only seem to be together.  For relationships, to the ego, mean only that bodies are together.  It is always this that the ego demands, and it does not object where the mind goes or what it thinks for this seems unimportant.  As long as the body is there to receive its sacrifice, it is content.  To the ego the mind is private, and only the body can be shared.  Ideas are basically of no concern, except as they bring the body of another closer or farther.  And it is in these terms that it evaluates ideas as good or bad.  What makes another guilty and holds him through guilt is “good.”  What releases him from guilt is “bad,” because he would no longer believe that bodies communicate and so he would be “gone.”

9. Suffering and sacrifice are the gifts with which the ego would “bless” all unions.  And those who are united at its altar accept suffering and sacrifice as the price of union.  In their angry alliances, born of the fear of loneliness and yet dedicated to the continuance of loneliness, each seeks relief from guilt by increasing it in the other.  For each believes that this decreases guilt in him.  The other seems always to be attacking and wounding him, perhaps in little ways, perhaps “unconsciously,” yet never without demand of sacrifice.  The fury of those joined at the ego’s altar far exceeds your awareness of it.  For what the ego really wants you do not realize.

10. Whenever you are angry, you can be sure that you have formed a special relationship which the ego has “blessed,” for anger is its blessing.  Anger takes many forms, but it cannot long deceive those who will learn that love brings no guilt at all, and what brings guilt cannot be love and must be anger.  All anger is nothing more than an attempt to make someone feel guilty, and this attempt is the only basis the ego accepts for special relationships.  Guilt is the only need the ego has, and as long as you identify with it, guilt will remain attractive to you.  Yet remember this; to be with a body is not communication.  And if you think it is, you will feel guilty about communication and will be afraid to hear the Holy Spirit, recognizing in His Voice your own need to communicate.

11. The Holy Spirit cannot teach through fear.  And how can he communicate with you, while you believe that to communicate is to make yourself alone?  It is clearly insane to believe that by communicating you will be abandoned.  And yet many do believe it.  For they think their minds must be kept private or they will lose them, but if their bodies are together their minds remain their own.  The union of bodies thus becomes the way in which they would keep minds apart.  For bodies cannot forgive.  They can only do as the mind directs.

12. The illusion of the autonomy of the body and its ability to overcome loneliness is but the working of the ego’s plan to establish its own autonomy.  As long as you believe that to be with a body is companionship, you will be compelled to attempt to keep your brother in his body, held there by guilt.   And you will see safety in guilt and danger in communication.  For the ego will always teach that loneliness is solved by guilt, and that communication is the cause of loneliness.  And despite the evident insanity of this lesson, many have learned it.

13. Forgiveness lies in communication as surely as damnation lies in guilt.  It is the Holy Spirit’s teaching function to instruct those who believe communication to be damnation that communication is salvation.  And He will do so, for the power of God in Him and you are joined in a real relationship so holy and so strong, that it can overcome even this without fear.

14. It is through the holy instant that what seems impossible is accomplished, making it evident that it is not impossible.  In the holy instant guilt holds no attraction since communication has been restored.  And guilt, whose only purpose is to disrupt communication, has no function here.  Here there is no concealment, and no private thoughts.  The willingness to communicate attracts communication to it and overcomes loneliness completely.  There is complete forgiveness here, for there is no desire to exclude anyone from your completion, in sudden recognition of the value of his part in it.  In the protection of your wholeness, all are invited and made welcome.  And you understand that your completion is God’s, Whose only need is to have you be complete.  For your completion makes you His in your awareness.  And here it is that you experience yourself as you were created, and as you are.[1]

In today’s devotional reading, Jesus refers to the special love relationship as the ego’s substitute for the true love of God for us, His Son.  Egotistical, the special love relationship is based on fear and not love because love is never fully given and never fully received.  Incomplete and exclusive special relationships contents the ego in us but never God in us – because the ego is always out to get while in God giving and receiving are one.  There is no true love in any kind of specialness for it is established on guilt, demands, and obligations, at its core is anger and hostility – assumed threats to specialness sets it into an unholy rage. 

Ego-based relationships are based on guilt, anger, and threat as a means to get love and keep it to oneself.  Few of us recognize this – we all think of the special relationship as something in which to envy or to strive to attain.  And yet at the core of any kind of specialness is guilt, and the call for sacrifice.  We sacrifice again and again to specialness – we flatter it, we make up myths about it, we give it gifts that we cannot afford.  We abandon the ones we called to love in our quest for specialness.  When we make of one person special, we cannot love truly, for love is complete and includes all of Creation.  Love does not demand devotion through sacrifice or lies or guilt.

No matter how uncomfortable this may make us feel, as students and teachers of A Course in Miracles, we must understand the role the ego assigns to guilt in the special relationship without fear.  When we do this we will no longer allow guilt to manipulate us or use guilt to manipulate others for we will see how ignorant, ugly, and stupid it is and how worthless to the cause of Love.  There is simply no place for guilt in holiness, for holiness is a realm of beauty and grace.  Holiness is a state of mind in which the light of love and peace and joy shines forever. 

So let us examine guilt and the premises in which it is devised and maintained in regard to the special relationship.  In paragraph four Jesus expounds upon how the ego tries to keep and increase guilt in our relationships in such a sneaky way that we do not even realize that we are using it and what using it does to us.  First we are tricked into believing that what we do to others will never happen to ourselves.  While the ego wishes only for ill will, its survival depends upon our believing that ill will is reserved for others and not for ourselves.  And so when we host the ego, we will direct its ill will outward in an effort to protect ourselves.  And thus it embarks upon an ongoing, meaningless search for special relationships in which to unleash its fury, its sense of being shafted, its sense of not being good enough, rich enough, attractive enough, or smart enough.  We fall prey to the ridiculous belief that we make ourselves safer, bigger, and better by directing the ego’s anger to the world outside of our body.  The angrier we are over the outside world, the more we criticize, the more we outraged we are over the injustices, the betrayals, the small annoyances and inconveniences that others put us through, the blunders and shortcomings of others, the safer and bigger and better we will make ourselves. 

Jesus calls this kind of thinking a chain of savagery, and that is exactly what it is.  It has no place in our beautiful holy minds for it fills us with a sense of guilt.  There is no place for such practice in the everlasting Kingdom of God.  Special relationships are a particular place where such savage beliefs enslave our minds leading us to believe that it is okay to kill, to maim, to threaten and destroy in the name of love, that it is okay to lie and manipulate in order to keep certain relationships going, that it is perfectly fine to interfere with the Will of God in someone else’s life in order to keep them bound to us, denying them freedom to follow their dreams that take them away from us.  We bind our spouses to us, our children and grandchildren, we bind our friends to us and throw angry darts if they outshine us in any way, if they do things without us, if they want to step out of our circle and join another.  Instead of being loving and kind, extending mercy and grace, we build cases, we hold pity parties, we go into rages.  We threaten.  We exaggerate their sins to cover our own failings.  We blame them and remind them of all the sacrifices that we made for them. 

In paragraph six, Jesus tells us that every single relationship the ego makes believes that sacrifice makes it better, but it is “sacrifice” that makes it bitter and full of resentment.  Instead of attacking directly, the ego uses guilt, which is a direct attack, but not an obvious one for in special relationships both parties are familiar with guilt.  Guilt has become our go-to!  Guilt is what our mothers and their fathers use, guilt is what our religions use, guilt is what our teachers and our preachers, our friends and our enemies use to keep us in line.  Guilt is what we ourselves have learned to use to get what we want from others, to maintain our relationships, to reserve our place in someone’s heart. 

As unlikeable as guilt is, we continue to be attracted to it.  In our special relationships, each party believes that he has sacrificed something to the other.  Resenting each other for the sacrifices we make to each other, we call them forth to justify our anger.  We are not “in love” with each other at all, Jesus tells us.  We are just in love with the idea of bodies being joined, of all we gave up for each other – we appreciate the idea of sacrifice.  And because we believe in all we sacrificed, we will make the other one guilty and demand that they make sacrifices, too.  Forgiveness becomes impossible for in forgiveness we lose the sense of “I did this and this and this, and he just took and took and took.”  Forgiveness means we do not get to be the martyr anymore.  We don’t get to list out all our sacrifices offered up to the special relationship and use guilt to keep the other one in a state of owing us their fidelity, their paycheck, their love, their body, their sexuality, their sense of freedom and fun, the status in which we have become accustomed to.  The ego is deathly afraid of forgiveness, of mercy and grace, for only by attack without forgiveness can it make everybody else guilty and keep us blind to the chains we use to hold our unholy relationships together. 

Look closely at paragraph eight, for Jesus tells us that we are holding nothing together.  Our special relationships only seem to be together for bringing bodies together does not mean that there is a relationship.  Concerned with bodies, with appearances, with what happens on the outside of us – the ego has little concern for the mind.  The ego only needs a body to receive its sense of sacrifice, it heaps its guilt upon the body.  The ego does not worry about our spirits, it has little to no concern over the sharing of ideas, the communion of minds, what it makes much over is the proximity of the body.  Whatever we use to make another guilty and keep him close to us is “good.”  What releases him from us is “bad.” 

With suffering and sacrifice the ego blesses all special relationships.  Suffering and sacrifice is the price of union.  Through sickness and health, through riches and poverty, till death do us part…anger comes, we fight and carry on, we exchange one special for another special or we stick it out for fear of loneliness, for fear of failure, for fear of not fitting in – increasing the sense of guilt in one another in the false belief that it will decrease our own sense of guilt.  In special relationships, the other one always seems to be hurting us in their own unique ways, ignoring our achievements, being unappreciative of our efforts, comparing us unfavorably to others.  We begin to hate each other’s nervous tics, drowsiness, lack of cheerfulness and fun.  We criticize, we make demands, we act jealous and spiteful and mean.  The anger that builds between the ego’s special relationships, far exceeds the awareness we have of it for the ego wants only to kill, to destroy, to lay waste – this is the ego’s aim for all of us and when we engage in specialness of any kind, we are led to doom and gloom, to years of underlying anger, resentment, and guilt making.  The ego’s blessing upon special relationships takes many forms.  It leads to mental anguish, sickness, and death.  Jesus asks us to take a long close look at it with eyes wide open.  Do not look away.  Do not try to justify it.  Do not pretend that your particular special relationship does not have guilt, hostility, and anger at its core.   

All anger is an attempt to make another person guilty for what brings anger simply cannot be love.  Guilt is the only need the ego has.  As long as we use it, as long as we identify with it, as long as we hide behind it, we will be attracted to it.  We will keep our relationships “special,” and not holy at all.

Firstly, Jesus tells us to remember we are not bodies and, secondly, bodies do not truly communicate. If you mistake having a body close to you as communion you will feel guilty and be afraid of the true communication of holiness.  You will not recognize your holiness for you will not remember that the voice of holiness is your only means to communicate truly.  Holy Spirit cannot teach those who are afraid.  Holy Spirit will be unable to communicate with us as long as we believe in loneliness, in sacrifice, in guilt of any kind.  Holy Spirit does not abide in darkness, nor fear, nor secrets of any kind.  There are no such things as “private thoughts,” or “secret longings,” in holiness.  It is clearly insane to think that by not communicating, we will never be left alone and lonely.  And yet that is what we believe.  We believe in keeping secrets.  We believe in darkness.  We believe that we can hide what is dark about us as a means to keep other bodies around us because they have no idea how mean and spiteful and dangerous we really are. 

In paragraph eleven Jesus says it like this:  We think that as long as we keep our bodies together our minds remain our own.  We think that by keeping a private mind, we hold our relationships together and are not left alone.  We substitute the union of bodies for the true communication of mind – we forget that bodies can do only what the mind directs.  We fall prey to the illusion that we can overcome our sense of loneliness through our bodies, we keep making more of them to assuage our deep sense of separation, our yearning for real love, our yearning for reality, but as long as we believe that we can find companionship and love through a body, we will be compelled to keep ourselves trapped in flesh, held there by guilt!  We will continue to see safety in guilt and danger in communication.  Our safety will mistakenly be held in darkness and secret keeping; we will be afraid of our truth, our reality, our holiness for holiness will destroy our belief in bodies; holiness will melt away our attraction to guilt in all of its forms.   

Forgiveness comes through communication; communication is our salvation.  No matter how afraid we are of coming clean, we have the power of God in us, we are joined in power and in holiness with Christ in Sonship, and in our holiness and strength we overcome all of our fear of the past, of the darkness, of letting go of guilt and sacrifice and the special relationships in which they are cherished.

Practicing the holy instant is what will accomplish that which is impossible to us on our own.  All things that seem too difficult, too scary, to risky for us on our own become simple, practical, and feasible.  In the holy instant guilt holds no attraction; communication is restored.  In the holy instant we communicate with the Mind of Christ which is the Mind of the Sonship.  All minds are joined in that instant, in that holiness.  The holy instant gives us the perfect opportunity to expose our deepest longings, our true feelings, our desires and dreams, our guilt and shame, to one another in the safe and perfect present.  Here there are no secrets.  There is no shame.  There is no loneliness for we come to know one another as we really are in complete forgiveness, with a desire to include everyone and everything, of knowing that every single one of us have played a most valuable part in our completion.  In the holy instant we know that our completion does not come through guilt, through sacrifices, through special relationships, but only in God Who is Love and Whose only need is for us to be know are wholeness in Him through Sonship.  We will never find the missing parts anywhere else with anybody or anything else and there is simply no reason to make others feel guilty for not giving us what only God can give!  In the holy instant, in this present moment when we step out of specialness, out of sacrifice, out of guilt, we know ourselves as we were created and as we really are. 


[1] A Course in Miracles. Chapter 15 The holy instant. VII The needless sacrifice. Foundation for Inner Peace, Second Edition (1992).

For daily 2021 Workbook lessons, visit www.i-choose-love.com courtesy of Linda R.

Audio credit:  www.eckiefriar.com (Audio will be inserted ASAP)

Filed under: ACIM

About the Author

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Coming up on sixty, my love for God, home and hearth, my husband and family fueled my decision to devote the rest of my life only to pursuits which brought love, joy, peace, and purpose. I am a writer, seeker, student, and teacher with experience professional and otherwise from waitressing to teaching the English language in China, Taiwan, and Singapore. I hold a BA in Psychology from Bloomsburg University, which took nearly 30 years to attain while I squeezed courses in between raising my children, journaling, relationships, work, and an assortment of escapades, some of which I would rather forget! An ongoing passion for reading, writing, adventure, food, and fun, eventually led me to the love of my life, James, whom I met in 1996 and married in 1997. Our life together has been an exciting journey of work and travel, spiritual awakening, and domestic bliss ever since. Although we have experienced the tragic loss of family members and friends through death and estrangement, we have managed to turn our special relationship into a holy one by the grace of God and an acute and growing awareness of “there must be a better way!” In 2006, I published my first novel, Luella’s Calling, and am currently working on my second, Grover Good and the Stone Chateau. From 2013 through 2018, I worked as a Prevention Education Specialist for Transitions, a local domestic violence sexual abuse victim’s service agency. My work there, fueled by a lifelong enthusiasm for teaching, led me to obtain an MS in Education from Scranton University. In 2018, I resigned to accompany James on his work travels while focusing on my calling to study and teach A Course in Miracles. To that end, I dedicate the rest of my days to writing, sharing, and teaching the message of salvation found within the Course pages. Thank you for your interest in this blog. As I do not respond to comments on the posts, if you care to contact me, please email me at eckief@yahoo.com.

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