Thursday, November 13, 2008

Is Guidance a Dirty Word?

In Dutch newspapers there has been an uproar in recent days about the release of the report of the Beel commission, which dates from 1956, when there was a practical constitutional crisis seemingly caused by the contact of H.M. Queen Juliana with a woman, described in the press mostly as a "faith healer," Ms. Magaretha "Greet" Hofmans. The details do not matter if you were not closely involved, but the upshot is that there were accusations floating around this issue when it happened that suggested that this woman might have undue influence on the Queen. That impression was certainly not obviated by some of the things the Queen said about the situation, and thus there was an appearance of impropriety that needed to be avoided in order to forestall a crisis of confidence. In the end the Queen was forced to sever relations, including severing relations with all her staff who had been part of the developments, in order to make a clean slate, and so the incident faded into the background. Questions about what really happened always remained however. And at least the publication of this official report from that time, pursuant to the Dutch equivalent of a freedom of information request, is certainly a helpful step in clearing things up.

Without going over all the details of this story which remain irrelevant, there is one central theme which remains, and that is that in this society, as adults we are responsible for our own decisions. Therefore I never have time for people who "feel guided" to do something. That is just about the worst copout you can think of. The truth of it is, that if you truly let yourself be guided by the Holy Spirit in your decisions, that you will not increase guilt with your decisions, and you will not feel guilty in any way for your subsequent actions, which allows one a wonderful sense of freedom, but it never ever does mean that one does not take full responsibility for one's actions. Abraham Lincoln's lovely expression for this is " the better angels of our nature," and decisions made with this guidance have that incomparable feeling of being in the flow, and having no resistance or guilt associated with them. Those are the times when we know we're doing the right thing, and have no problem taking responsibility for our actions. Thus the experience of such guidance does not diminish but rather enhances the sense of full commitment to and responsibility for one's decisions, without any need to become either defensive or apologetic, ever. The ego's decisions by comparison always remain debatable, which is why we can become fiercely defensive, when we meet opposition to them, exactly because we are not sure of ourselves (the ego being our false self in the first place), and we promptly proceed to get into those scenes, which Shakespeare masterfully characterized as " The lady does protest too much, me thinks," which is always a dead giveaway for the ambivalent kind of decision making we do with the ego.

Rather, the need to inform others that we felt guided to do something misses the point entirely, and at worst seems only to make others feel inferior, seeming to impress them with what a holy person we are. Thus it becomes a not so subtle put down, in the same vein as some vegetarians deem themselves superior to others, and try to sow guilt wherever they can, instead of just simply doing it because it makes us feel better, and leaving others alone.

Ken Wapnick offers a wonderful way of undoing this particular fallacy, when he points out that we all channel all the time--either the ego or the Holy Spirit. Which it is will have a major impact on how we feel, but is irrelevant to the outside world for all practical purposes. The Course's forgiveness process does not involve going up to a person and telling them that you forgive them, because ultimately you're not forgiving them, but yourself, and in that same vein learning to let the Holy Spirit guide our actions is irrelevant to others, for it only has to make do with learning to accept the atonement for myself.

Copyright, © 2008 Rogier F. van Vlissingen. All rights reserved.