The Mystical and the Practical Holy Relationships

Students often ask if my relationship with my life-partner, Courtney, is a Holy relationship because she is not a student of A Course in Miracles. Yes it is but it is a different experience than I had in the Holy relationship that experienced when I was first a student of A Course in Miracles (see The Holy Relationship). In that first relationship, which I call a mystical Holy relationship, I experienced another as the perfect reflection of my Holy Self. My Identity extended to include her, teaching me that the personal self that I thought I was, was not me. Eventually E moved on but I continued to experience Oneness just by thinking about her. Since I was still able to experience Oneness while she was physically thousands of miles away I learned that E was not the source of the Holy relationship; the Source of my experience must be with me all the time. The Holy relationship, I realized, is really with the Holy Spirit within me extended outward to encompass what my mind perceives.

Many years later I met Courtney, who is on a spiritual path of her own (Christian and 12-step) that does not include the Course. I do not have the same ongoing experience of Oneness with her that I had with E; with Courtney (and others) I have had only glimpses of Oneness. But on a day to day basis we have always practiced what I call a practical Holy relationship. We both established in the very beginning that for each of us our relationship with God comes first. We do not expect the other to make us whole. We both take responsibility for our own perceptions and experiences and, when the other has a problem, we remind her to turn inward to God. We always look for win-win in any conflict and have each learned that compromising always results in a better outcome than we would have had if only one of us had had our way. Compromising, too, makes each of us evaluate what is really important to us. We don’t bother to argue anymore because we know we’re going to work it out eventually. We cut to the solution and skip the drama because a loving, peaceful relationship is paramount to both of us.

For me, both of these experiences of the Holy relationship are expressions of my Oneness with the Holy Spirit. The first one was a complete expression of this, establishing in my awareness that my Oneness with the Holy Spirit is my only real relationship. And because I’m aware of this my relationship with Courtney becomes an extension of this awareness. It is loving and healthy because I do not look to Courtney to make me whole or happy or at peace. I am able to accept her as she is. Without the Holy Spirit in my awareness my relationship with Courtney would be solely a special relationship and I would think she needed to be a certain way for me to be happy. As the Course teaches, every Holy relationship still has some traces of specialness but what makes it Holy is that maintaining your awareness of your Holiness comes first. With Courtney, when specialness rises to a level that threatens our relationship we each turn within to resolve the issue. Courtney would not put our relationship in these terms but it is certainly the way that she approaches the relationship.

It is, of course, possible to experience a Holy relationship that is both mystical and practical. This requires that both you and the other are aware of the Holy Spirit within and that you are both ready to extend this awareness in your perception. The result is a reciprocal Holy relationship like Helen Shucman and Bill Thetford had, and that you read about in the Course. Most people I have met who experience a Holy relationship experience the practical Holy relationship, whether they are students of the Course or not; the few mystical Holy relationships I’ve heard of are between two Course students. So you do not have to be with a student of the Course to experience the Holy relationship; you only have to be willing to use the relationship to remember your Holiness.


Read The Message of A Course in Miracles: A Translation of the Text in Plain Language at


hannah said…
apologies, im still confused. i think maybe youre saying that the mystical holy relationship includes a dropping of the sense of a separate self, whereas a purely practical one does not?

in this light i would have said that helen and bill as i understand it, had more of a practical holy relationship than anything. they rubbed each other the wrong way a lot, and just had periods of time in a relationship they generally both had to work hard at keep loving, where they knew themselves and each other as one with god. if im understanding what you are saying re the two 'forms' of relationship, then helen would not have been able to hold on to the anger she apparently felt until right near her death, at letting go of her own authority and experience a mystical holy relationship?
hannah said…
i read this in another of your relationship themed blogs:

'There is only one relationship, and that is with God. Relationships in this world were meant to replace your relationship with God. However, they can be of use in your awakening as holy relationships. The vision of the holy relationship, where you see Oneness in place of bodies and personalities, does not require that others share the experience with you at the same time. Your only responsibility is to accept this vision for yourself. Through this experience you will realize there is only one relationship and you won’t require that others be anything to you but what they are.'

are you speaking of the practical holy relationship here? aside from the first sentence?
ACIM Mentor said…
Hannah, yes, correct, the practical Holy Relationship does not involve any mystical experience. It is simply a practice of coming from your awareness of your wholeness, which takes the pressure off of your relationships to make you feel whole.

It was my understanding that Helen and Bill had the mystical Holy Relationship. I totally identified with the passages in Chapter 16 and 17 about the Holy Relationship and the huge conflict it engenders. Helen's response was much more an indication that it was a mystical Holy Relationship because the ego is completely threatened by it. When ACIM speaks about the vision and the oneness they experience then you know it is the mystical Holy Relationship. It then goes into the practical ways to apply the vision, as in remembering it when there is a conflict.
hannah said…
ah, clarity re the practical and mystical holy relationships! i see why you call the practical holy relationship practical, that is awesome, thank you Liz! i imagine that taking that pressure off seeking wholeness where it isnt would not only allow us to be gentler and more loving with others in the dream, but also leave a quieter space within where awareness of oneness is more able to 'enter'.

i will study chapters 16 and 17 in acim and placim with your descriptions in mind, and see if i can get my head around the egos reaction to experiencing oneness. did you have reactions like helens after experiencing the mystical holy relationship? helen seemed to hold on to feeling threatened for a long time, yet you seem to have embraced peace to me.
ACIM Mentor said…
Hannah, I was angry for 7 years after experiencing the Holy Relationship! I felt both blessed and cursed by it. I felt I'd been "robbed" of a "normal" life. So I've always understood Helen's resistance.
hannah said…
Liz.. thanks for sharing, and drat!

i can relate enough to the above to say 'drat' because i was furious for about five years after i started to realise that acim was saying individual beings didnt exist. so many parts seemed to talk as though individual 'sons' did exist, but id read other parts and the meaning seemed pretty clear regarding Oneness, and id get frightened and angry. then i came across ken wapnick and got angrier, then you, and got angrier still, because i could no longer pretend i might be wrong about my individual mind not continuing in some way forever. i was torn between the great comfort i felt reading acim, and the hugest tantrums, i felt betrayed! (on more than one occasion i threw the book across the room..) i have only let go of the terror in the last few months.. i still experience fear around it sometimes, but its different, gentler, and tempered by growing trust that reality is beautiful beyond my current understanding, and the miracles of peace ive experienced.

i have to admit to being a bit worried about experiencing anything that might lead to that depth of anger again! while at the same time, i want to experience truth more than anything. and i suppose the threat aspect that came with this mystical experience would be balanced by knowing the love of oneness.

presently i feel in-between. i dont feel i relate to not truth or to truth completely, my mind wont accept either thought system.. which is probably just the ego thought system being tricky! and i guess im possibly experiencing a gentle intro in some ways to 'loss of normalcy'. youre the only person ive spoken to who has gone through where im at, let alone gone further through to inner peace. i appreciate you as im not conscious enough of true being yet not to feel lonely in this. but that is easing off. its 3am, and im pretty sure im dribbling!
ACIM Mentor said…
Hannah, you're just experiencing the process as it is - a vacillation between joy and peace and fear and conflict. It's the same thing with not wholly accepting either thought system. You have been unmoored from the old thought system, which is good news. But you haven't wholly accepted the new thought system so you feel, well, unmoored!It will be that way for a long time. During it you may have some settled spells but then you will find yourself unmoored for a while. Just remember it is a process and you are on your way and you are getting somewhere.
hannah said…
thank you.. remembering the process is now anchored in ;)
hannah said…
study of chapters 16 and 17 did clarify thank you, furthered by discussions on recent blogs. my questions here were still assuming the personal self could accept peace, and experience oneness.
Anonymous said…
Dear Liz,
Lately I've been watching one particular romance movie and I realised today that I am identifying with one of the characters as what I would desire as 'my perfect partner/lover.' The sad thing is I'm aware of special relationships now and I think that I've been watching this movie repeatedly because I really want that character to be real for me. I've been getting so upset knowing that this movie character can never be real but I just keep watching the movie. I'm obviously having a very difficult time letting go of the idea of a perfect partner. I'm so sad to know that all my previous attempts at finding 'the right one' have been in vain. I just seem to be crying a lot and then feeling betrayed. The crying is helping to pass through this stage of the process. i am truly gritting my teeth and feel like I'm a snarling dog with a bone in its mouth being threatened that it's going to be torn from me. What do you make of all this?
ACIM Mentor said…
Anonymous, perhaps you are grieving the realization that there is no such thing as a perfect anything in this world. You can find someone to share your life with but they will never be perfect.

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