(By Rogier F. van Vlissingen)
Temptation has one lesson it would teach, in all its forms, wherever it occurs. It would persuade the holy Son of God he is a body, born in what must die, unable to escape its frailty, and bound by what it orders him to feel. It sets the limits on what he can do; its power is the only strength he has; his grasp cannot exceed its tiny reach. Would you be this, if Christ appeared to you in all His glory, asking you but this:
Choose once again if you would take your place among the saviors of the world, or would remain in hell, and hold your brothers there. (ACIM:T-31.VIII.1)
Recently, I hosted a group reading on a webinar of Margot Krikhaar’s article “All the Money Belongs to Everyone,” and it was recorded and is now available on YouTube: Discussion of Margot Krikhaar’s Money Article.
The first and most obvious thing is that the whole topic of money is rife with opportunities for level confusion, yet, even the records we have of Jesus’s teaching outside the Course are pretty clear: Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s. That was always clear, except it becomes a lot clearer when you understand the concept of levels in the Course. As Margot says in the introduction, she came to realize in her work in the corporate world (healthcare), that issues about money are not at all about money but about the content behind it, and about the attachments and attitudes of people. Money of course in the world is very involved with individual survival, and our attitudes towards it are a reflection of that. Thus the confusion is that we’re having money problems, which are a wonderful distraction from the one real problem we do have: we have chosen the wrong teacher, and money or any other issue in the world are just a distraction to keep us from ever looking at that one faulty decision we made in the mind.
Ken Wapnick’s little book on Form versus Content, Sex & Money also focuses on the temptations for level confusion by the ego’s two favorite topics, sex and money. Both of these present us with endless problems and challenges that root our attention in the world, as they appear central to our survival, and have almost unlimited power to distract us from making the one decision in the mind, to choose once again, to dump the teacher of folly (the ego), and to choose the voice of the Holy Spirit for our guide, as the opening quote above suggests. In short, money and sex are merely ego topics par excellence, but no different than many other opportunities for distraction, and every problem we face invites us into an opportunity for choice, and the choice is always between moving the deck chairs on the Titanic with the ego (changing the form), or changing the content, by shifting to the Holy Spirit for our guidance, which is the miracle.
As Margot insightfully points out in her article, it makes no difference if the money is yours or not, for even being in apparent control of money for another party, or in an organization, provides opportunities for abuse of power that reinforce the ego’s agenda. It also makes no difference if your issues are simply managing money, or the lack of it. Both are simply opposite sides of the same coin. It gets even funnier when people have power struggles over money in the not for profit world. And naturally, although Margot does not mention it, the Marxist solution attempt is faulty also, since to focus on the distribution of the physical means, the money itself, eventually does not solve the problem – it is merely another way of moving the famous deck chairs. The only thing that does solve the problem is changing teachers, and choosing the miracle over the ego’s madness, at which point we simply handle our money or lack of it in an unselfish manner and stop reinforcing the ego, and heaping on more guilt all the time.
From my own recollection, during my time in the corporate world, I remember an interview with some woman who was struggling through the financial aftermath of a stellar career that had been abruptly ended, and among other things getting some financial counseling. She had been making over a million dollars a year (in the eighties), and her attitude in her own words was: “I thought that money was the stuff people throw off the back of trains.” While she was good at managing other people’s money, not so her own. Only later, with my experience with the Course, did all of this start to make any sense, including my own keen awareness during periods of relative affluence, that money does not make you happy, and that I frequently felt guilty buying things I thought I richly deserved (listening to the ego!), which is exactly what the ego wants: to keep us feeling guilty. Guilty that we do have money, guilty that we don’t have money, and everything in between, as long as the guilt increases, the ego is still in charge.
In short, the whole point is that everything becomes easier if we learn to listen to the Holy Spirit instead of to the ego, including all the thorny issues of money and sex. Ken Wapnick has also frequently commented when people think the Course is not practical, and/or you could not be a Course student and run a business effectively, that the opposite is often the case, for if you are truly coming from your right mind and following the guidance of the Holy Spirit, you are not going to get side-tracked by all of the ego’s emotional blackmail and games, and see through the issues, and instead of getting confused (level confusion), by focusing on the apparent problems on the level of form and effect (money), you will be focused on the issues behind the appearances at the level of cause. By following the guidance of the Holy Spirit, you will remain the voice of reason in the midst of the wildest storms, which is the only way you can truly handle situations in a way that serves everyone’s highest interest, and therefore does not create more guilt, but clears up the ego’s obfuscations instead.