ACIM Text Reading for January 21
Chapter 3 ~ The Innocent Perception
I. Atonement without Sacrifice
A further point must be perfectly clear before any residual fear still associated with miracles can disappear. The crucifixion did not establish the Atonement; the resurrection did. Many sincere Christians have misunderstood this. No one who is free of the belief in scarcity could possibly make this mistake. If the crucifixion is seen from an upside-down point of view, it does appear as if God permitted and even encouraged one of His Sons to suffer because he was good. This particularly unfortunate interpretation, which arose out of projection, has led many people to be bitterly afraid of God. Such anti-religious concepts enter into many religions. Yet the real Christian should pause and ask, “How could this be?” Is it likely that God Himself would be capable of the kind of thinking which His Own words have clearly stated is unworthy of His Son?
The best defense, as always, is not to attack another’s position, but rather to protect the truth. It is unwise to accept any concept if you have to invert a whole frame of reference in order to justify it. This procedure is painful in its minor applications and genuinely tragic on a wider scale. Persecution frequently results in an attempt to “justify” the terrible misperception that God Himself persecuted His Own Son on behalf of salvation. The very words are meaningless. It has been particularly difficult to overcome this because, although the error itself is no harder to correct than any other, many have been unwilling to give it up in view of its prominent value as a defense. In milder forms a parent says, “This hurts me more than it hurts you,” and feels exonerated in beating a child. Can you believe our Father really thinks this way? It is so essential that all such thinking be dispelled that we must be sure that nothing of this kind remains in your mind. I was not “punished” because you were bad. The wholly benign lesson the Atonement teaches is lost if it is tainted with this kind of distortion in any form.
The statement “Vengeance is Mine, sayeth the Lord” is a misperception by which one assigns his own “evil” past to God. The “evil” past has nothing to do with God. He did not create it and He does not maintain it. God does not believe in retribution. His Mind does not create that way. He does not hold your “evil” deeds against you. Is it likely that He would hold them against me? Be very sure that you recognize how utterly impossible this assumption is, and how entirely it arises from projection. This kind of error is responsible for a host of related errors, including the belief that God rejected Adam and forced him out of the Garden of Eden. It is also why you may believe from time to time that I am misdirecting you. I have made every effort to use words that are almost impossible to distort, but it is always possible to twist symbols around if you wish.
Sacrifice is a notion totally unknown to God. It arises solely from fear, and frightened people can be vicious. Sacrificing in any way is a violation of my injunction that you should be merciful even as your Father in Heaven is merciful. It has been hard for many Christians to realize that this applies to themselves. Good teachers never terrorize their students. To terrorize is to attack, and this results in rejection of what the teacher offers. The result is learning failure.
I have been correctly referred to as “the lamb of God who taketh away the sins of the world,” but those who represent the lamb as blood-stained do not understand the meaning of the symbol. Correctly understood, it is a very simple symbol that speaks of my innocence. The lion and the lamb lying down together symbolize that strength and innocence are not in conflict, but naturally live in peace. “Blessed are the pure in heart for they shall see God” is another way of saying the same thing. A pure mind knows the truth and this is its strength. It does not confuse destruction with innocence because it associates innocence with strength, not with weakness.
Innocence is incapable of sacrificing anything, because the innocent mind has everything and strives only to protect its wholeness. It cannot project. It can only honor other minds, because honor is the natural greeting of the truly loved to others who are like them. The lamb “taketh away the sins of the world” in the sense that the state of innocence, or grace, is one in which the meaning of the Atonement is perfectly apparent. The Atonement is entirely unambiguous. It is perfectly clear because it exists in light. Only the attempts to shroud it in darkness have made it inaccessible to those who do not choose to see.
The Atonement itself radiates nothing but truth. It therefore epitomizes harmlessness and sheds only blessing. It could not do this if it arose from anything but perfect innocence. Innocence is wisdom because it is unaware of evil, and evil does not exist. It is, however, perfectly aware of everything that is true. The resurrection demonstrated that nothing can destroy truth. Good can withstand any form of evil, as light abolishes forms of darkness. The Atonement is therefore the perfect lesson. It is the final demonstration that all the other lessons I taught are true. If you can accept this one generalization now, there will be no need to learn from many smaller lessons. You are released from all errors if you believe this.
The innocence of God is the true state of the mind of His Son. In this state your mind knows God, for God is not symbolic; He is Fact. Knowing His Son as he is, you realize that the Atonement, not sacrifice, is the only appropriate gift for God’s altar, where nothing except perfection belongs. The understanding of the innocent is truth. That is why their altars are truly radiant.
ACIM Workbook Lesson for January 21
I am determined to see things differently.
The idea for today is obviously a continuation and extension of the preceding one. This time, however, specific mind-searching periods are necessary, in addition to applying the idea to particular situations as they may arise. Five practice periods are urged, allowing a full minute for each.
In the practice periods, begin by repeating the idea to yourself. Then close your eyes and search your mind carefully for situations past, present or anticipated that arouse anger in you. The anger may take the form of any reaction ranging from mild irritation to rage. The degree of the emotion you experience does not matter. You will become increasingly aware that a slight twinge of annoyance is nothing but a veil drawn over intense fury.
Try, therefore, not to let the “little” thoughts of anger escape you in the practice periods. Remember that you do not really recognize what arouses anger in you, and nothing that you believe in this connection means anything. You will probably be tempted to dwell more on some situations or persons than on others, on the fallacious grounds that they are more “obvious.” This is not so. It is merely an example of the belief that some forms of attack are more justified than others.
As you search your mind for all the forms in which attack thoughts present themselves, hold each one in mind while you tell yourself:
I am determined to see ________ [name of person] differently.
I am determined to see ________ [specify the situation] differently.
Try to be as specific as possible. You may, for example, focus your anger on a particular attribute of a particular person, believing that the anger is limited to this aspect. If your perception is suffering from this form of distortion, say:
I am determined to see ________ [specify the attribute] in
________ [name of person] differently.
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ACIM Q & A for Today
Q #597: A Course in Miracles states that “the crucifixion did not establish the Atonement; the resurrection did.” I understand that the Atonement is the realization that nothing happened, that there was no split and that we are still part of God and always have been part of God. It is easy to see that the resurrection showed that the body was meaningless and could be “displayed” any time. Also the fact that God would give his only begotten son as a sacrifice for the sins of the world is such a ridiculous statement that it staggers the mind to believe that any intelligent person, for 2000 years, could believe this of a loving God.
What I do not understand is how the resurrection established the Atonement. Did not Jesus show many people that the body was nothing with all of his miracles particularly in raising Lazarus?
A: As you point out, traditional Christianity teaches that Jesus’ death on the cross atoned for our sins and reopened the gates of Heaven. God then raised him from the dead as proof that Jesus was the Son of God, and that his sacrifice bridged the gap that occurred between God and His children when Adam and Eve sinned in the garden of Eden. The Gospel account tells of the resurrection of the body and establishes that fact as a fundamental belief for many Christian sects. In the Course Jesus reinterprets both the crucifixion and the resurrection. He teaches that not only is the body nothing, but death is nothing as well. If the death of the body is nothing, the crucifixion could not accomplish anything. It is, as Jesus tells us in the text, only a teaching device (T.6.I.2).
The phrase you quote must be understood in terms of the principles of the Course’s teaching of the Atonement, and the content, not the form, of the historical resurrection. In this light the essential message of each is “nothing happened!” They both teach: “there is no death” (W.pI.163), “there is no sin”(T.26.VII.10:5), “attack has no effect” (T.12.V.2:2). In this sense Jesus’ resurrection, along with ours, is awakening to the awareness of our true Identity as God’s innocent Son, which the Course teaches is the Atonement. In the statement you cite, Jesus gives us the message intended in his resurrection. It is the message of the Atonement, beautifully expressed with Easter symbols in the Holy Week section of the text: “This week begins with palms and ends with lilies, the white and holy sign the Son of God is innocent. Let no dark sign of crucifixion intervene between the journey and its purpose; between the acceptance of the truth and its expression. This week we celebrate life, not death. And we honor the perfect purity of the Son of God, and not his sins” (T.20.I.2:1,2,3,4).
It is important to remember that Christianity teaches the resurrection of Jesus’ body, while in the Course Jesus tells us it is the condition of the mind when it accepts the Atonement: “Very simply, the resurrection is the overcoming or surmounting of death. It is a reawakening or a rebirth; a change of mind about the meaning of the world. It is the acceptance of the Holy Spirit’s interpretation of the world’s purpose; the acceptance of the Atonement for oneself” (M.28.1:1,2,3).
Q #98: A Course in Miracles seems to be saying very clearly that it is important for the individual reading the book (and each and every Son of God who believes he is separated) to fulfill the Holy Spirit’s purpose for the world and time by accepting the Atonement, that is, that the separation never happened, and that the Son of God is one (the Christ) and at home in God the Father.
My question is this: It appears from the above that it will make a difference when “I” or “All” the Sons of God accept the Atonement. Otherwise why would Jesus and the Holy Spirit and God go through all this trouble of bringing the Course into the dream and working with us daily in our struggle to recognize the truth? So what is that difference?
I realize our real Self never separated from the Father so nothing happened in reality. But still, here is the Course, telling us our realization of what the Course teaches is “required.” I don’t mean this facetiously, but very sincerely: What difference will it all make?
A: It may appear that Jesus or the Holy Spirit have some investment in our accepting the Course’s message, but that is really only a projection of our own ego. The reference to the Course being “required” (T.in.1:2) was really intended only as a message for Helen when she was questioning whether she wanted to do what it was asking her to do, even though she in fact knew it was the answer to her and Bill’s request for another way.
It may also seem that Jesus and the Holy Spirit — God could not be involved because He is beyond all words and symbols, including the specific symbols of the Course (M.21.1:7) — have gone to a lot of trouble to give us the Course and get us to practice it, but that is not in fact the reality. They simply are a presence in our mind that reminds us of the alternative to our ego’s thought system (T.5.II.7.1,2,3,4) and it is our own split mind that gives form to that reminder, in a way that we can understand and benefit from. For a more detailed discussion of this, you may wish to refer to the section, “Helen and Jesus: The Illusion and the Reality,” in chapter 17 of Absence from Felicity by Kenneth Wapnick.
Nevertheless, although there is no pressure or urgency as far as Jesus or the Holy Spirit are concerned to have us follow the Course’s teachings — they know nothing here is real even if we don’t — your question still calls out for an answer. What difference does it make when we accept the Atonement for ourselves? The only difference is how much time we spend in pain — and that is our choice. As Jesus observes, “Nothing is ever lost but time, which in the end is meaningless…Yet since you do believe in it, why should you waste it going nowhere….it is hard indeed to wander off, alone and miserable, down a road that leads to nothing and that has no purpose” (T.26.V.2:1,3,6). And so the Course offers us a gentle process for undoing time and its effects, with no demand or insistence about it. Jesus only ever offers us gentle encouragement to look at the consequences of our choice for the ego, describing, in what we may experience as excruciating detail, how we are inflicting pain upon ourselves and how we can make a different choice.
Q #205: I may be wrong in this interpretation, but A Course in Miracles seems to be saying that none of us will enter into Heaven alone. Does this mean that every soul that thinks it is separate must accept and live the Atonement before anyone goes to Heaven? What happens to the souls that have not accepted the Atonement when the body is laid aside?
A: Yes, A Course in Miracles does say that “no one can enter Heaven by himself” (W.pI.134.17:7). But this does not mean that “every soul that thinks it is separate must accept and live the Atonement before anyone goes to Heaven.” Jesus is correcting our faulty thinking that we are separate, autonomous individuals, and that we can, for example, condemn others without having that judgment affect ourselves. Thus, preceding the above quotation, he says “In everything you do remember this: No one is crucified alone” (W.pI.134.17:7). Similarly: “Brother, you need forgiveness of your brother, for you will share in madness or in Heaven together. And you and he will raise your eyes in faith together, or not at all” (T.19.IV.D.12:7,8).
The point of the teaching is that we are joined as one Sonship, so that we are mistaken anytime we think: I am worthy of passing through the gate of Heaven, but this other person or group is not and never will be; or, this other person is worthy and I am not. Jesus is helping us restore our minds to their original state as Christ, the one Son of God. He is using our language to get us beyond our usual way of perceiving, which is always grounded in separation, division, individuality, and linear time. The process is not linear. There is no “waiting.” That is how we would envision the process from our perspective in time and space; but the process is entirely outside our temporal framework, and therefore not something we can fully understand. There is only the illusion of many unhealed minds. There is only one mind that is in need of healing, and that is yours. If you can keep that as your focus as you practice the Course, you will indeed learn its lessons and integrate its message.
Finally, it is not necessary to lay the body aside in order to accept the Atonement. The body would just be properly perceived, i.e., as a thought that has never left its source in the mind. Jesus knew he was not his body, and therefore never suffered. Things happened to his body, but they did not happen to him. That is why he asks to take him as our model. He did not perceive himself as victimized. His mind was healed. Lesson 226 describes this from a different angle, but it is the same idea: “If I so choose, I can depart this world entirely. It is not death which makes this possible, but it is change of mind about the purpose of the world. If I believe it has a value as I see it now, so will it remain for me. But if I see no value in the world as I behold it, nothing that I want to keep as mine or search for as a goal, it will depart from me. For I have not sought for illusions to replace the truth” (W.pI.226.1).