Friday, March 21, 2008

“The Deal Maker”

It was silly, of course, for him to have believed that love could be lost, even sillier to believe that he could purchase it by something he either did or didn’t do. But since he was only six, what did he know? (It took him fifty more years for him to learn something else about love—or more accurately to discover what obstacles he had placed in the way of recognizing that love’s presence lay all the time there within himself.*) But at age six he had adopted (or made up?) several other silly ideas. For instance, the terrible idea that no one loved him. And that thought was so very frightening because he also believed he could not survive without it. It became a matter of life or death.

If he indeed was without love, at the very least he must find a way to get someone to recognize him—not only to recognize that he was there, but to be pleased that he was there. (To be recognized by people who liked him was certainly preferable to being noticed by people who were mad at him or even hated him. He’d tried that option and definitely did not care for the result.)

But one day, a seemingly perfect solution occurred to him. Somehow he had come upon a book that he was able to read. He was fascinated, for the left hand page contained a script that matched the face of a character that took up the whole right hand page of the book. And if he cut out the face, cut out a space for the eyes, and put rubber bands on the ears, he could make himself a mask of that character.

The character that fascinated him most was called “The Stuttering Dutchman.” The Dutchman’s features, though smiling, decidedly gave a strong impression of someone we now label ‘mentally challenged.’ What delighted the little boy was that, when he put on the mask, though he appeared to be stupid, he knew how very smart he really was. It was all a set-up to fool everyone! Of course, there was a certain amount of delicious power in that as well.

Even better, the script contained many stammers (the silly Dutchman couldn’t even talk straight), and those lines might make people laugh, for he laughed himself as he read them. So he cut out the mask, cleared the eyes so he could see, and with the rubber bands placed over his ears, he proceeded to go out to play with his friends. He had taken pains to memorize the stammering script, and eagerly awaited meeting his friends.

Just as he thought, when they all gathered around him, transfixed by the mask, and listening to his recital, they howled with laughter—and even asked him to do it again and again and again.

The little boy couldn’t have been more pleased. Then one of the boys said, “Hey, this is so good why don’t we ask the teacher to have him do this before the whole class?!” “Yeah,” another said. “It could be a kind of Show and Tell.” And so they did.

And so it came to be. And when it happened that the whole class erupted in laughter, they pleaded with him to do it again. He couldn’t have imagined anything better than this! Not only was he recognized, but better than that, he had made people want him and like him. When they smiled and laughed, it seemed to him to be even better than what he imagined love to be. And then, when his teacher proposed to the principal of the school that every class might also enjoy the show, and the principal agreed, the little boy couldn’t believe his good fortune. For smiles, laughter and recognition accompanied him everywhere—or so it seemed.

But his illusions of happiness were not to last, for by the end of the week, when he took off the mask for the last time, he was horrified to discover that he now could not speak without a halting stammer himself!

It seemed as if by some cruel magic the Dutchman’s stammer had now become his own. Try as he might, he found he was simply unable to speak clearly. What had happened? How could this be? Surely this was some nightmare from which he would soon awaken. No such luck, for it would take another thirty years for him to free his mind from the stammering curse that he had chosen. In the intervening years, he would be unable to raise his hand to ask a question in class, unable to do so also when he knew the answer to a teacher’s question. Fearing the humiliating snickers from his classmates, he was paralyzed into speechlessness. Now when his classmates laughed, they laughed not at a silly mask, they laughed at him. In place of happiness and euphoria, now came hate—hate of himself for being such a fool and hate of those who laughed at him.

It was a Faustian bargain he had struck; what a monumental price he was to pay for his yearning to be recognized. A very bad deal indeed.

*ACIM, Introduction

Copyright 2008, Frank E. West

The Purging (Continued)

Last night I had the third nightmare that seems to be a part of the purging I must endure to facilitate the coming renewal and release from the illusion of guilt.

The Nightmare
Two brothers who lived two houses up the street were out to get “John” and me. Therefore I gathered some chains from the yard and brought them inside (chains to imprison me?). They saw me and ran to break in just as I slammed the front door, but one of them got a hand in and I unsuccessfully attempted to break its fingers. A second reached in to attack my groin, but I swiveled away. “John” was in the back of the house and I shouted: “They’re on the porch. Hurry!” “John” was a huge giant of a man and he ran around the house to get them. Some mother and child were in the kitchen of the house. I felt they now would be safe.

This is another ‘kill-or-be-killed’* (and/or imprisonment) dream. What triggered it? I had been impatient with M and making a correction of it as well as my brief envy of C. But I think the major cause was my plea during meditation before bed. I said to the assembled ‘spirit guides:’ “BRING ON THE PURGING.”

It was not that I wanted to push to achieve the inevitable. Rather, I wished to be open to its happening—a desire not to flee from it, but to accept it, to welcome it.

I see no redemptive figure in the dream, only the projection of the Ego’s hatred; of conflict, struggle, a sense of vulnerability, fear and threat. My desperate call for “John’s” help—is symbolic of my ego idea that power solves all conflict, ends all fear and presumes to make guilt moot.

Of course force fails; it generates more guilt since it is by definition separation; enemies do not join when force prevails. The premise of the nightmare was that attack was real and merited counterattack and defense.

It was again clear to me that if I wished peace from the fear and guilt that I had constructed, asking for help was necessary. And of course, as I did so during the meditation that followed, serenity returned to my mind.

It seems clear to me that until the dregs of the repressed unconscious guilt are brought to the healing light of the Holy Spirit’s gentle forgiveness (forgiveness of what has not been done or thought), there can be no complete redemption. Right now this seems to be what I am in the midst of. I must say the process necessitates faith that the outcome of healing is assured.

*ACIM Manual 17, 7:11

Copyright 2008, Frank E. West

Purging of the Darkness of the Ego’s Unconscious Thoughts

Tonight I had another nightmare that seems to be part of the purging that the psychic Priscilla predicted that I must go through in order to experience the healing of my Ego mind.

The nightmare is as follows: I am a prisoner of the Nazis and I am to be called before a bureaucratic judicial panel. One of my superiors in the prisoner group sitting in this room gives me a loaded pistol, cocked and ready to fire. I had asked for a machine gun—like an AK47—but it would have been too conspicuous. Thus, as I am called to stand before this trio of Nazis, I am able to hide the pistol under a gray blanket. And as I approach them I begin firing. I expect instant retaliatory fire and imagine many bullets thudding into various parts of my body as I die. The idea is to kill and be killed.

The trigger for this dream, I am led to believe, is not only this purging I am to go through. —Yesterday Ed responded to reading “The Scream”(with its murderous wish to kill Martha), and criticized my writing for being “too personal.” I found I was able to hear that as coming from his own fear of revealing his Ego thoughts, but I also wanted to withdraw from him, making the mistake of feeling judged, and demanding praise instead. It was a reflection of my Ego’s guilt for the dark unconscious wish to kill which I have repressed into my unconscious. It was guilt that caused the need to repress the dark thoughts into the unconscious. And guilt which demanded praise. Both in that moment of hatred of Ed and in the dream of last night, I experienced the ‘return of the repressed,’ as Freud put it.

Now, thanks to Jesus’ course, I have the opportunity of laying those murderous ‘kill-or-be-killed’ thoughts on the altar of my heart and call for the Holiness in my mind to shine on them—resulting in their disappearance, the relief from the illusion of guilt, and the healing of my mind.

It’s this process that brings me nearer to the awareness of Love’s presence—as I remove the obstacles I have placed on the way, that block my capacity to reflect my essential Holiness to the world. And all this is happening in my mind. All I have to do is ask for help, have faith that it is instantly given, and confidence in the superior power of Divine Love to shine away the darkness I have made—the guilt for murder in my mind. That is the “last dark cornerstone”* of my Ego mind. (That cornerstone is the “tiny mad idea”* that I killed God by thinking I could separate from His Love, and that now I am prisoner of the guilt which will surely end in my death.) I see God as the Nazi power to which I am subject and which in vengeance will kill me for my hatred of Him—the Nazi God I have made.

Part of the trigger for this dream was also the clarity of thought (this very thought) which I articulated in the Tuesday p.m. group yesterday. (I am now experiencing Martha’s presence, so I know I have returned to Love by the process of writing this.)

I also had experienced my love of the group, my love of Robert and Celia last night at dinner, and the response of love from all of them for me. At this moment, my separation from Ed is healed.—Happiness returns. And laughter wells up from within me—laughter at how seriously I had taken the world, my actions in it, and the response of others to me.

And so this nightmare ended in laughter, just as the idea of a real world will also end in laughter (ACIM Manual 14, 5:5).

*ACIM, Text, 13 III 1:9

*ACIM Text 27, VIII, 6:2

Copyright 2007 Frank West

“Two Gifts”

In the last ten years or so I’ve become increasingly aware of the gifts that come my way via the persons who come into my life. This has resulted also in an increasing gratitude during my more frequent moments of meditation. I’m speaking not only of persons who are demonstrably kind and thoughtful, but also of those who exhibit hate, cruelty and moments of angry attack. These figures in my life allow me the opportunity to look within myself for those same characteristic thoughts, feelings or actions, and to bring them to the healing power of forgiveness that I believe lies within the hearts of all of us.

Lenore’s Gift

This is the story of a person who brought to me a huge blessing. Her name is Lenore and her story is a necessary prelude to my own.

At age thirty, Lenore was not only an accomplished professional musician, but a busy theatre director and stage manager as well. One of her gigs was stage managing a dance troupe headed by a dancer friend named Margo. During a dance performance, it happened that Margo, while intending to leap into the arms of a six-foot male dancer, instead leapt completely over his outstretched arms, landing just behind him on her head and shoulder. The result, of course, was serious injury to one side of her body.

Margo’s injury got no better, despite dozens of visits to doctors, chiropractors and bodyworkers. Lenore and Margo prayed together for help in healing Margo’s injury. Help is what they got, though in a form neither of them expected.

Over the weeks that followed, Lenore noticed that her hands were becoming more and more painful, to the extent that she began to worry that she might be developing rheumatoid arthritis or other serious condition that would impair her ability to play her wind instruments.

Fast forward several months to Christmas Eve in a Congregational church in a small Connecticut town. Lenore had gone to the church with her brother, who had a gig to play his flute during the Christmas vigil service. They sat in the choir loft along with the organist, soloists and choir. There is some irony here in the fact that Lenore and her brother are Jewish.

It was during the singing of “Silent Night” that the piercing scream of a young woman down in the chancel brought the service to a halt. The church deacon appeared in the choir loft and approached Lenore. “She’s calling for Lenore,” the deacon said. “Aren’t you Lenore?” Lenore and the deacon had never met before.

When Lenore went down to the woman who had screamed, she expected to find someone she knew—perhaps one of the dancers. To her amazement, she found a young woman she’d never seen before. “Can you help me?” the young woman pleaded. Lenore noticed that, while turning in the pew, the woman had somehow dislocated her knee. So Lenore did what she had done so many times for the dancers: with her hands she popped the knee back in place, instantly relieving the pain. The paramedics arrived soon after and took the young woman to the hospital, while Lenore returned to the choir loft and the church service resumed. But Lenore was left with the persistently puzzling question—How to explain that her name had been called out by a complete stranger? More puzzling still was that, as she sat there in the church, she noticed that the pain in her hands had gone. Instead she felt a warm rush of energy that seemed to move from her heart down her arms to her hands. Her hands no longer hurt, they glowed. Even stranger was the fact that she, a Jew, felt at that same moment that she had received a gift for healing from Jesus. There was no question in her mind that this was so.

Coincidentally her brother had just given Lenore a gift certificate for a session with a local psychic named Ed Moret. Not long after her miracle in the church, Lenore met with Moret. As soon as she sat down for the reading, Moret, who knew nothing about Lenore, asked, “What’s going on with your hands?” Lenore told him what had happened that Christmas Eve. Moret confirmed that she had indeed received the gift of healing. And not only that. Moret told her that she’d be going back to school in order to develop and refine her new gift. “No way will I ever go back to school!” thought Lenore, for she was content with expressing her talents for theatre and music, and she wanted no more schooling.

Now for some time Lenore had been helping the dancers in the troupe, in an informal way, with the various minor strains, stresses and joint dislocations that dancers are prone to. The dancers would tell her what to do and she would use her hands to massage and manipulate the painful areas. The dancers invariably commented that Lenore had great hands, and a wonderful touch.

So Lenore decided to see if there wasn’t something she could do to help Margo, whose injury was as debilitating as ever. Something led Lenore to a bookstore where she found a book by a bodyworker and healer entitled Healing Hands. She read the book and began applying some of its ideas with the hope of helping Margo. Having no massage table, Lenore tried working on Margo on Margo’s dining room table, along with a comforter and some pillows, hoping to bring Margo some relief from her constant pain. To the amazement of both women, there was one moment, as Lenore worked with her hands on Margo’s neck and right shoulder, that there was instant relief from pain and freedom from bodily paralysis. In that moment, Lenore had discovered another talent. She was a healer.

All that Ed Moret predicted did come to pass. Not only did Lenore enroll soon after in a physical therapy degree program, but she today runs one of the most successful physical therapy practices in Connecticut, with patients coming to her from all over the country in order to receive her unique healing gift.

It was Lenore’s fascinating story that helped me reach another level of spiritual awareness, and that story follows.

Martha’s Gift
Some are appalled when I tell them that my wife’s death was a gift to me. I had thought at first that I’d had an immeasurable loss, only to discover the opposite was true. I had no loss— Her death was instead an immeasurable gain. Let me try to explain.

After some five years of dementia, the severity of which escalated markedly at the end, Martha died after only four days at Hospice. The dementia had a name: Diffuse Lewy Body Disease, and it included a terminal closing of the esophagus. It was clear to me that Martha chose to die after a final fall that brought with it considerable pain. Also she did not want any part of tubular feeding.

I grieved for about a month. Having lived with her for fifty-five years, I of course missed her; though I was relieved that she chose not to suffer further.

Before Martha died neither she nor I were ever able to satisfactorily meditate. Our minds skipped about in distraction during the process. About a month after her death I decided to try again. And this time I was able to stay focused, at times for over half an hour.

It was during these meditation times that I experienced a strange tingling of the skin about my lips, cheeks and throat. At first I attributed this to some unknown physiological cause. But as it persisted, sometimes occurring during my sessions with patients or while taking my daily walks, I began to think: “Could this be Martha’s spirit communicating with me?” “Oh, no,” I thought, “since I miss her so and am capable of making up many thoughts and feelings, I’m just making up a sense of her presence as well.”

Nevertheless, as weeks went by and the suspicion of her presence persisted, I decided to clear up the matter for myself. Having heard Lenore’s startling story, I decided to visit Ed Moret and ask him about this continuing electric-like tingling of the skin.

I did not get an opportunity to ask him; for as I entered his presence he exclaimed: “Who is that woman with her arms around you kissing your neck? Do you feel her? I think her name begins with an ‘M.’ It’s Mary—or Madeleine—Oh no—She’s telling me her name is Martha. And she is sorry for your sadness.” (Even as I write this I am experiencing her presence in the manner described above.) Ed went on: “And she wants you to know how very grateful she is for the fifty-five years she lived with you, and that she will be with you until you decide to cross over. Whereupon she will help make your transition easier for you. Meanwhile, for instance, she will be riding in the car with you as you drive, and will let you know of any dangers that might be up the road that are unknown to you.”

By this time I was overcome with gratitude, thinking that nothing could be better than what I was hearing. I was wrong about that, for Ed continued: “She also wants you to know that in the next 18 months she will help open a door for you to enable you to rise to a higher level in your quest to experience the Source of Love. And if any of your patients are open to receiving her help, she will be there for them.”

Subsequent events have substantiated those communications. For my capacity for serenity when confronting disappointing events or hostile encounters with others has greatly increased. And I have become more patient and less preoccupied with outcome than my usual selfishness had heretofore demanded.

Then some four months after this visit with Moret, I had two newly acquired patients say on separate occasions: “Strange things are happening to me recently. I awake at 2:30 in the morning with the sense that a woman named Martha desires to help me heal. She reminds me that forgiveness of those I hate is not only crucial for me but absolutely possible. She says the same things you do, but sometimes I can hear her more easily.” Neither of these patients knew I had been married to a Martha, nor that she had died nor promised to help my patients.

And so I am grateful for these gifts. I believe they reflect the Source

Two Gifts of Love with which all of us seek to re-join as we continue on our spiritual journey. And the end is certain, as A Course In Miracles declares:

Yet at the journey’s ending there will be no gap, no distance between truth and you. And all illusions walking in the way you traveled will be gone from you as well, with nothing left to keep the truth apart from God’s completion, holy as Himself. ( Workbook , 155:10 )

Copyright 2007 Frank West

On Choosing to Fall from a Tree

This is a story that in some ways is a metaphor that illuminates a process of mind that characterizes all of us. I tell it because it is both interesting and instructive.

The Fall

Some forty or more years ago, I was in the process of building a fledgling practice of psychoanalysis and still learning from its founder, Sigmund Freud. With four children and a wife to support, and the expense of living in New York City with both apartment and office to finance, we were barely able to get by. Despite this, when the kids’ summer vacation arrived, Martha and I decided we would take two months as a family to be together. But how to do it with little or no money? The answer of course was to go camping, and this we did for many years. One of the places we enjoyed most was Maine, and we found a small campground on Islesboro Island in Penobscot Bay. We made friends with the family that owned the campground and returned there often.

One year, however, rain and fog seemed to be present continuously for the two months we were there. But we discovered that if we took the ferry to the mainland, the sun was often shining there whereas fog covered the outer islands. Thus we decided to spend more time on the mainland. Martha would take the kids to the playground in Belfast or did the grocery shopping while I explored the dusty tax records in the county courthouse, looking for land, the taxes for which had not been paid for some time. If the taxes were in arrears for an extended period—(I forget the length of time)—the land reverted to the town that was due the taxes.

To my joy I discovered what appeared to be twenty acres, half of a forty-acre island, just off Islesboro, the taxes for which had not been paid in a very long time. The quit-claim deeds of many relatives turned out to be a complex matter, but in essence, the town of Islesboro owned most of that twenty acres (one person had paid on their ‘undivided portion,’ and they agreed to sell). I approached the town fathers and asked when they would put up their newly acquired land for auction bid (they did not know they owned it). An auction of such land was required by law. The result was that my bid was the highest, and with a loan from a bank, I bought it.

During the following winter, with some more borrowed money, I had a tent platform constructed on the highest point of land on a cove.

All this was a significant event for me, since I owned nothing at that point. I was still making car payments. So when we arrived at our newly-acquired island (no one lived on the other half so in phantasy we chose to believe we had it all), I was quite happy. Martha was pleased, and the kids ran about exploring the woods and the littoral.

As I put up the tent on the newly built platform, I thought how lovely it would be to sit there at sunset in front of the tent drinking coffee as the sun went down behind the Camden Hills. But as I turned around to the west to face them, I saw only a huge spruce limb blocking the view. After a brief moment of disappointment, I was relieved by the thought that, young and strong as I was, climbing that tree and cutting off that view-blocking limb would be no trouble at all. So I took my woodsaw, climbed the tree and happily began sawing away.

While halfway through the spruce bough, I distinctly heard a voice in my head say: “NOW YOU ARE ABOUT TO FALL.” And instantly I did so. My muscles went limp, I lost my foothold and my grip and down I plunged, nearly fifteen feet, landing especially hard on my right ankle. It swelled up like a balloon and I was sure it was broken. Fortunately, instead, it turned out to be a very severe sprain (severe enough to immobilize me for the next seven weeks). My vacation plans were severely truncated; all I could do was sit as patiently as possible and contemplate what on earth that voice was all about.

And so I did. Fortunately, what was instantly clear to me was that the cause of this ‘accident’ was all in my mind. My mind was the source of my behavior; not my body; not some outside incident or external force. I had no one ‘out there’ to blame; instead, I saw its cause was but a very strange decision in my own mind. (All this was before I knew anything about the metaphysics of A Course in Miracles—indeed, in fact before the book was scribed.) But I did know about the writings of Freud, which I was studying at the time. In fact, I had brought some of them along for ‘summer reading,’ and I turned to them for some explanation of this strange episode.

I considered Freud’s “death instinct,” as he called it, but at that time found it to be too abstract an explanation. But then I came upon a paper he had written with the Victorian title, “The Negative Therapeutic Reaction.” In it he described his observation of a frequent phenomenon that occurred during the course of his “talking cures,” as he called them. What he observed was this pattern:

A patient would enter treatment with specific symptoms and, as the therapy progressed, sometimes the frequency and/or severity of the symptoms decreased and the patient was therefore happily relieved. However, there came a point when the symptoms returned, sometimes with a swift vengeance, returning far worse than they were at the beginning of the treatment. And if the patient did not quit in disgust, but continued the therapy, the same gradual improvement would be repeated, again reaching the same plateau, then precipitately dropping with the symptoms’ return. Freud called the point of symptom reversal ‘the negative therapeutic reaction.’ Basically, I suppose another term to describe this phenomenon would be ‘the fear of happiness.’

Certainly, I was most happy with my life at the moment I decided to fall. Certainly it was in fact an illusion that I owned either the new platform or the island acreage—(the bank owned them both)—but I was certainly happy in my delusion. My wife was humming contentedly as she put away the groceries, and the children’s excitement of discovery pleased me greatly. Could it be I was experiencing the same thing as Freud’s patients? At the time it seemed to be the best possible solution to that nagging question, “Where did that voice come from?”

So I decided to make a life study of that question, seeking its answer primarily in myself, but also in the data I collected from the patients I worked with. I looked for evidence of this ‘fear of happiness’ and I found it. Now I am aware that our eyes see what they want to see and our ears hear what they want to hear. Nevertheless, I have since found this idea to be true for everyone I’ve been privileged to know with some intimacy. It seems we all have it. A Course in Miracles calls this part of the mind the Ego, and one of its most potent passages is:

“The ego is, therefore, particularly likely to attack you when you act lovingly, because it has evaluated you as unloving and you are going against its judgment. The ego will attack your motives as soon as they become clearly out of accord with its perception of you. This is when it will shift abruptly from suspiciousness to viciousness, since its uncertainty is increased.”

(Text, Ch 9, Section VII, paragraph 4)

This quote, I believe, explains my choice to listen to that voice in my head—and explains that voice. For I had for many years, that one included, believed I was unloving. But as I proceeded to cut through that limb, I had a newfound joy in the moment—a joy of providing in some small way for the happiness of my wife and four children. It was the closest

I had come to daring to think I might be expressing love for both myself and them. Thus, the fall. I have since determined to make a correction when I hear the ego’s voice and see that voice as “the great deceiver,” and do what I can to deprive it of its pretence to power. To the extent that I have been successful in that endeavor, my contentment and serenity have in direct ratio increased.

Copyright 2007 Frank West

How I Learned to Love (and Hate) - A Spiritual Path

For some fifty-seven of my eighty years I have been on a quest to find inner peace.

It was, of course, only due to my growing unhappiness that I was driven to seek respite via the route of psychoanalysis. My first attempt failed, for the analyst I chose rarely spoke, remaining passively silent for hours on end (being a conservative Freudian). I gave him up, but I was tenacious in my quest.

Once I was given an opportunity to study at the American Foundation for Religion and Psychiatry, and later to join the faculty there, I was introduced to the British school of Neo-Freudians. Their ideas I incorporated and used in my private practice as a psychoanalyst for many years. (At AFRAP I was grateful to Herb Holt, M.D., Fred Kuether and others.)

During my training I was required to again embark on a period of personal analysis. This time I was fortunate to have chosen Ralph Rosenberg, M.D., a student of Karen Horney. Over the twenty years I spent with him, I learned much about the darkness of my unconscious mind and found some relief from its destructiveness.

Further healing came when my wife Martha and I embarked on a process of couples therapy with Kitty LaPerrier, Ph.D., at the Ackerman Institute for Family Therapy. That experience saved our marriage. Since I saw the efficacy of what I had experienced, I decided to learn it. So I applied at Ackerman for training, was accepted, and learned much there of family systems. I am indebted to my then supervisor and now friend, Ann Korelitz, MSW, as well as Peggy Papp, Lynn Hoffman and Olga Silverstein. Then I decided to travel weekly to Washington and intern with Jay Haley and his wife Chloe Modanes.

Yet with all this therapy and training that was directed to changing the mind, I had not yet found the peace I sought.

The Gift of Martha -

My late wife Martha was the source of many gifts over the fifty-five years of our marriage. Next to her copious love, I consider her greatest blessing to me to have been her introducing me to the spiritual path A Course in Miracles.

It came about in this way. In 1984 we decided to sell our house in Garrison, New York, and our condo in Manhattan and move to Guilford, Connecticut in order to be nearer to our two young grandchildren who then lived with our daughter and her husband in Wallingford.

Once in Guilford, Martha made a new friend in Susan Santora who at the time was a member of a group in Old Lyme studying A Course in Miracles. Martha found the Text, Workbook and Manual for Teachers fascinating. She brought the book to me and said: “You might be interested in this.” I took a quick glance at it and dismissed it, saying: “I think I’m doing fine without it.” Being wisely aware of my capacity to be stubborn (not to mention willful), Martha gently and patiently persisted.

Deciding that I might as well take a closer look, I began seriously reading it. And to my amazement I found I couldn’t put it down. I was hooked! For when I took that closer look, I found a highly sophisticated thought system aimed at retraining the ego mind. Not only that, but the psychology was derived from the very sources I had studied at the American Foundation (now the Blanton-Peale Institute) in the 1950s and 60s. In addition, though it was built on the psychological foundation of psychoanalysis, it went far beyond it—to the spiritual truths which I had been long yearning for but never found.

That is not to say that I have not struggled against the Course, fought it, hated it, and at times fallen asleep while reading it (a sure sign of my resistance). In fact, I believe if you do not hate the idea of giving up your egotistical love of your special, individual self, you are not really ‘getting it.’ The process requires resenting the very idea: “I do not perceive my own best interests.” (Workbook, Lesson 24)

Nevertheless, over the past twenty-three years, as I have gradually come to make the frequent corrections of my “wrong minded” thoughts through “the awareness of Love’s presence” (ACIM, Intro), and the forgiveness which Love promises, I have increasingly found that “light, joy and peace abide in me.” (Workbook, Lesson 93)

Thank you, Martha, for leading me to the source of that peace I have so long sought; a great blessing, indeed.

Copyright 2007 Frank West

'Love' As Sacrifice (“Seek and Do Not Find”)

My first love was an adolescent infatuation with a girl that, at some level, I knew wasn’t ‘right’ for me—or better said, good for me. She was what we boys then called a ‘loose’ girl, an ‘easy’ girl; i.e., one with whom boys could have their way sexually. She, of course, attracted many boys. I chose to see myself as rejected by her. Thus I stood at a distance—a sad, deprived onlooker, unfulfilled, with a yearning spirit. At the same time, I also saw myself as more virtuous, ‘better’ than all the others, special in my virginity. But not happy. I mooned about, at times standing outside her house hoping to catch a glimpse of her, wanting her to notice me—even be attracted to me, yet fearful at the thought of it. At some level I’m sure I must have hated her. I know I was aware of contempt for myself.

As I reflect on this strange matter from my present perspective, it seems that I was choosing sacrifice and calling it love. Certainly it was all about need, but of course I denied that. I do know that I experienced a perverse pleasure in the deprivation, in the soulful longing. It was all very subtle, but at the same time an extremely intense and powerful state of mind. I had chosen a kind of martyrdom that gave me a sweet sense of uniqueness—of a special, even superior view of myself.

What was this all about? At the time I had no idea. But I was soon to find myself in a similar situation, apparently repeating the first scenario, but in an altogether different form.

As I have mentioned before, I lived at a time and in a setting colored by religious bigotry. If one married a Catholic girl, one had to raise the children within the Roman Catholic faith. As a Protestant, I found that injunction distastefully coercive and arrogant. So what did I do but ‘fall in love’ (a term certainly denoting helplessness and weakness) with a Roman Catholic girl during my senior year in high school. And during my absence from her while I served my years in the army during World War II, I yearned deeply for her from afar. Along with that yearning was the acute sense of being victimized by her religious faith. Despite the fact that somewhere deep inside me I knew this was not a suitable choice for me, I pined for her sorrowfully, feeling the sweet pain of deprivation for many, many months. Again I had chosen martyrdom.

It has taken me some time to understand these choices destructive of my happiness.

One thing seems clearer to me now when I try to understand these decisions for pain. I was cleverly involved in a scam. Having insanely given up any hope for love (in its true sense), I was attempting to manipulate those around me to be concerned for me, to pity and worry about me. Or, even more insidious, to attempt to create guilt in those who seem to have chosen some form of happiness for themselves—ignoring me. For as they looked upon my sense of unfulfillment, my soulful unhappiness, how could they continue on their happy way, ignoring me? I would make them stop and consider me. As I see it now, all this was an expression of hatred for those I saw as happier than I.

A Course in Miracles gives a metaphysical explanation for all this insanity. It says we have a part of our mind (the Ego) that fears love (the only love being the Love of God) and come to this world both to flee from that Love and seek to find it here. But that egotistical mind, having one motto, “Seek and do not find,”* leads us, if we listen to it, to choose the misery I’ve described above. My experience has led me to believe this is true for all of us and is responsible for the misery we see in the world. This helps me see other’s hatred—and my own—as a deep cry for love, which we all have been unsuccessfully seeking and not finding. Yet all the while possessing within our mind that essence of our creation—the holiness of Eternal Love (ACIM Workbook #36).

This seeking on my part led me to find Martha.—And certainly, she proved to be a very much better choice. At some level I must have been more willing to be able to begin the quest to understand what love was all about; more able to receive it, as well. It may well be that this willingness was the result of my experiencing the devastation I saw in war-ravaged Europe. I do not know. I know only that for sure I had made a fortuitous choice in Martha.

That does not mean that I gave up the insane idea of looking for love outside myself. That was to come much, much later. Nor does it mean that Martha was free of that idea (we all make the same mistake).

I cannot explain my choice of Martha without resorting to the idea that I was led to her. We use the word ‘luck’ for such a moment. On another occasion I used the metaphor of finding a gem. Actually, in 1945 while stationed with the Army in the Bavarian Alps, I visited the castle built by mad King Ludwig of Bavaria. As I wandered, almost alone, through that baroque structure, I found what I took to be a piece of glass that had fallen from the ceiling of one of the rooms. It was attractive and at the time I thought my mother might like it. Actually I stole it—looted it—as all occupying armies do. It turned out not to be glass, but a semi-precious stone.

It was like that with Martha. At the time I found her (or she found me) in the garbage-strewn alley in the Chicago slum where we both worked as college students one summer, I had no idea of the value of what I had found. She was far more than semi-precious; she was precious. But it did take my egotistical mind a number of decades to truly discover the value of what I had found.

Psychics have told me that Martha and I had decided before we came here that we would meet again, having spent a number of lifetimes together in different forms. I do not know about all that. But I do know my capacity to perceive the love she represented was due to my capacity to begin to see the same love in myself. Actually, to see that we were the same. The two following quotes from A Course in Miracles were important to both of us as we sought to free our minds from the Ego’s motto, “Seek and do not find:”

You are one Self with me. I honor you because of what
I am and what He is, Who loves us both as one. (Workbook 95, 15:4)


I give you to the Holy Spirit as part of myself. I know you will be released unless I want to use you to imprison myself. In the name of my freedom I choose your release, because I recognize we will be released together. (Text, Ch. 15, XI, 10:6)

It is so ironic that what we so desperately seek for we already possess, and fail to recognize its presence.

*ACIM Text Ch. 12, IV, 1:4.

Copyright 2007 Frank West