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.
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 #1342: I’ve been studying A Course in Miracles for a number of years, but recently I have started to feel sad or anxious because the activities that once made me feel excited about life and engaged in living now seem flat or empty. I see friends and coworkers going about their lives improving themselves, going back to school for another graduate degree or planning trips to interesting places, and I can’t find that enthusiasm in myself for much of anything. Today I noticed that I felt “left out” of things, like I was watching life from the sidelines. At times I have tried joining in, but I can’t quite get into it like I used to. Much of the time I feel quiet inside and happy for others. Yet, at other times I find myself searching for something to throw myself into. There is a kind of desperate quality to the search. Could what I’m experiencing be an example of the “period of undoing” referred to in the manual for teachers? Is it expected to go back and forth between peacefulness and agitation?
A: What you describe is very common with students who have been studying and practicing the Course for a while. You will notice some parallels in Questions #599, #971, and #1115; and you may find our discussions there supportive as you work through this phase of your spiritual journey. More than likely you are experiencing the effects of your willingness to undo your ego. When you are driven to find something in the world to throw yourself into, you probably are responding to a sense of lack and emptiness coming from your decision to let go of your ego. Shifting away from what you have identified with and valued all your life (W.pI.133) understandably can result in fear and panic, along with peace and relief because you are no longer fighting against the truth of who you are. So it is quite normal to feel desperate at times and then attempt to quell the storm by dropping another anchor in the familiar world. Moreover, as you shift your attention from the outer world to the inner, you would naturally feel different about the activities that formerly gave you pleasure, satisfaction, happy anticipation, etc. You are no longer firmly grounded in that world — a good thing! — but you are not yet firmly grounded in the inner world, and as a result, you would tend to feel suspended between the two.
As you settle into your new role of being a happy learner (T.14.II), however, you will find that there is a way to engage in activities without the highs and lows that characterized your participation before. Once you give your day the single purpose of being a classroom in which to learn the lessons that would help you awaken from the dream, you will find yourself simply doing the things you need to do, but with less intensity and more peace. You can still enjoy television and movies, traveling, sports, or anything else that has been part of your life, but there would be a different feel to those experiences now. You have to do something; you have to eat something; you have to take care of your body; you have to interact with people, and so on; but you would go about everything differently now, in the sense that you would not take any of it as seriously as you used to. You would try to see all of your interactions as the means of learning that we all share the same interests. This would actually make your interactions more meaningful — even exciting, from the point of view of knowing this is helping you on your path back to God. The form of your activities would thus come to express the content in your mind. Your friends might not notice any difference, other than that you are more peaceful and light-hearted (W.pI.155.1), but you will be experiencing everything in your life from a new perspective, having chosen a new teacher who will help you see and judge everything through his eyes.
Finally, as you continue this process of forgiveness, the bouncing back and forth between your wrong and right mind will become less and less of a disturbance as you recognize the connection between undoing your ego and remembering to laugh at the “tiny, mad idea” (T.27.VIII.6:2). Your fear and resistance will become familiar to you and not be more than minor detours from which you will calmly find your way back to your chosen path and teacher.