by Beverly Hutchinson McNeff
“We are all angels with amnesia,” Dr. William Thetford, co-scribe of A Course in Miracles, once said. And we are! The radiance of our true Self can never change or be tarnished in any way. We are assured, “Your worth is not established by teaching or learning. Your worth is established by God. Nothing you do or think or wish or make is necessary to establish your worth.” (T-4.I.7:1)
Yes, our true worth is established and will never change, whether or not we acknowledge it. But, whether or not we acknowledge this truth does determine the type of life we experience.
We are told over and over again in the Course that of ourselves we can do nothing, but that God’s Answer (the Holy Spirit) within us can and will help us make our declaration of independence from a world of pain by realizing our total need for inner dependence on God’s Answer.
It was the thought that we could handle things on our own, run our own show — the thought of separation from God that started our imprisonment.
The ego has been defined as that thought of separation, so it is no surprise that some have used this phrase to describe the ego: Edging God Out. The cost of this banishment is the pain, sorrow and loneliness we feel.
A Course in Miracles says “that the Holy Spirit teaches you the difference between pain and joy. That is the same as saying He teaches you the difference between imprisonment and freedom.” (T-8.II.5:1) It goes on to tell us that we do not know this difference for ourselves. All we have to do is look at our own lives to see the many times we have mistaken pain for joy — imprisonment for freedom. Those times when we thought that judging another or our angry thoughts about a situation would bring us peace or happiness.
When the Course refers to seeing, it is not talking about “seeing” with our physical eyes, but “seeing” with the understanding and compassion of the Holy Spirit. This type of seeing will show us the path of freedom even in the face of what the world may see as confinement. For confinement is in the mind that is asleep to its truth, asleep to its power and glory.
As we awaken our minds to the power and glory that lie within, through the acknowledgement that we are one with God and that the Holy Spirit is our constant Guide to freedom and joy, we “bring the acknowledgement automatically to everyone, because [we] have acknowledged everyone. By [our] recognition [we] awaken theirs, and through theirs ours is extended.” (T-8.II.8:3)
Therefore, for us to awaken to our independence from a world of pain and imprisonment, we must first acknowledge our total inner dependence on God. As we express this truth in the living of our lives, we help others to awaken and thereby reinforce this truth for ourselves.
To highlight this idea, the following story is a very dramatic example of living what you believe even when it appears that your physical freedom is at stake.
Over thirty years ago, the television news program 20/20 aired a Barbara Walters interview with the then-recently released hostage negotiator and top aide to the head of the Church of England, Terry Waite. In 1987, while risking his life to free Americans in the Middle East, Waite became a hostage himself, and in this interview he revealed that there was a chance for him to escape, but he didn’t take it.
WAITE: Well, it’s this. Long before I was kidnapped, I used to say to them [those he was negotiating with], “It’s absolutely futile for you to keep engaging in violence and violent activities. It’s self-defeating. Give it up. Use your brains. Renounce violence.”
And then, one day, when I was captured, when I was hostage, I asked to go to the bathroom. There was just one guard in the room at the time and he unpadlocked me, unpadlocked my feet and my hands — it was a time when I was chained up completely. And I got into the bathroom and took my blindfold off — the door was closed — and I discovered on top of the cistern an automatic weapon.
I looked at it and it was loaded and I concluded that he’d left it there mistakenly. I thought, “Here’s a chance,” and then, immediately, I said to myself, “Well what have you been saying? You’ve been saying to these men, ‘When you are in a tight corner, renounce violence.’” And now, here I was in a tight corner and was I going to use violence? Because if I’d picked up that gun, I’d have had to hurt someone. I thought, “No. I must stand by what I believe.” And so I put my blindfold back on, knocked on the door and said, “Take it. I want nothing more to do with it.”
WALTERS: Mr. Waite, I listen to you. You could have gotten out and you didn’t and I think, forgive me, are you bucking for sainthood? How could you not?
WAITE: Because I had to stand by what I said. If I would say to somebody else, “Renounce violence when you’re in a tight situation,” then I must renounce the violence if that is where I find myself.
Terry Waite was not physically freed from his imprisonment for five years, but the moment he chose to teach freedom (for him the renouncement of violence), he was “released.” His trust in a power greater than himself and his willingness to demonstrate that truth to his kidnappers not only reinforced this truth in him but at some level, it reinforced it in the minds of his captors as well.
In our own lives, perhaps we feel imprisoned by some situation, person, or thought. Our freedom will not come from banishing that person from our lives, winning the battle over an outside obstacle, or changing someone else’s mind. Freedom will come from living our belief as whole, healed children of God — teaching what we want to learn — and letting our light so shine that all may see and join in the radiance.
We’re not “bucking for sainthood;” we are accepting our birthright. Awaken, you “angels,” to your independence, which begins with your inner dependence on God. He will show you, through His Answer, the way to joy instead of pain — freedom instead of imprisonment. It is only a thought away!