Volume 16 Number 3 September 2005
Kenneth Wapnick, Ph.D.
Identify with Love
Part 2 of 2
Atonement: The Adaptive Solution to the Existent Problem
The issue is not the non-existent problem, for how can what does not exist be a problem? Rather, the problem is our belief in it as reality; i.e., the separation from God actually occurred. In the words of the text, the problem is not the tiny, mad idea that we could be separate from God, but that we remembered not to laugh and took it seriously (T-27. VIII.6:2-3). The ego's unholy trinity of sin, guilt, and fear reflects this seriousness, as the three are quite serious ideas: the sin of separation, the guilt of our unworthiness to be loved, and the fear of punishment. That is why, earlier in the text, Jesus counsels us when we are confronted by this tiny thought:
Call it not sin but madness, for such it was and so it still remains. Invest it not with guilt, for guilt implies it was accomplished in reality. And above all, be not afraid of it (T-18.I.6:7-9; boldface mine).
And then, throughout our everyday experiences, when some twisted form of the original error rises to frighten us, he asks us to say "God is not fear, but Love," and the problem will disappear (T-18.I.7:1)—perhaps not in form, but certainly in content.
The implications to us of this advice—a principle that happily guides our return home—are enormous, for this alone is an adaptive solution to our only existing problem. We are never upset for the reason we think (W-pI.5), for the source of our distress—regardless of its form—lies in our decision to call madness sin, feel guilty over it, and then fear reprisal. To be sure, we all make mistakes, and all the time. We greatly prefer the ego's grandiose lies of separation and its offspring specialness to the Holy Spirit's truth of our grandeur as God's one Son. Yet we are repeatedly told by Jesus that a mistake is not a sin—e.g., "Son of God, you have not sinned, but you have been much mistaken" (T-10. V.6:1)—and thus does not deserve to be punished:
The Holy Spirit cannot punish sin. Mistakes He recognizes, and would correct them all as God entrusted Him to do. But sin He knows not, nor can He recognize mistakes that cannot be corrected. For a mistake that cannot be corrected is meaningless to Him. Mistakes are for correction, and they call for nothing else (T- 19.III.4:1-5).
Therefore, our one mistake was—and is—having chosen the ego as our teacher and guide. To judge or punish such an error makes it real and keeps it so in our experience. Thus is the ego's illusory existence guaranteed immortality, and God's eternal Being relegated to simple non-existence:
Punishment is always the great preserver of sin, treating it with respect and honoring its enormity. What must be punished, must be true. And what is true must be eternal, and will be repeated endlessly. For what you think is real you want, and will not let it go (T-19.III.2:4-7).
Once the problem is correctly defined as a faulty decision, and its place correctly identified in the mind, its undoing is easy. Interestingly, we read in the 1945 preamble to the Constitution of UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization): "Since wars begin in the minds of men, it is in the minds of men that the defenses of peace must be constructed." We can expand that wise statement to include all problems—collective and individual —since we are taught in A Course in Miracles that the mind is all there is: the beginning and end of everything; the thought of separation and its undoing through accepting the Atonement.
Imagine yourself in a rowboat with Jesus on a large body of water, and he is manning the oars. You suddenly realize that one oar is missing, and then to compound the situation, the remaining oar slips from its oarlock and falls into the water and disappears. You begin to panic, especially as the weather turns stormy, the seas become rough, and land has vanished from view—all seems lost. Yet Jesus is unruffled, and quietly says: "Do not be afraid. This is only a dream. Open your eyes and you will be safe." We lift our eyes, and indeed the stormy scene is gone and we are back on the shore we never truly left, though our dreams seemed to take us far, far away. His love, reminding us of the truth that lies beyond our dreams, is our safety. While this situation is obviously symbolic, its meaning is true, and Jesus assures us it is "no idle fantasy" (W-pI.70.9:4). Whenever anything seems to disturb our peace and threaten our stability, we need only remember Jesus' comforting words and his message of Atonement, our true defense:
When you are afraid of anything, you are acknowledging its power to hurt you.…[The peace of God] is totally incapable of being shaken by errors of any kind.…The Atonement is the only defense that cannot be used destructively.…[It makes] you perfectly invulnerable.… [and] re-establishes the power of the mind…(T-2.II.1: 4,10; 4:1; T-2.III.2:4; 4:6).
What does this have to do with our everyday life? Everything! The principle of the Atonement means that regardless of what happens to us, or to those with whom we identify in our personal world or the world at large, nothing here has the power to take God's peace from us. This peace, born of the memory of our Creator's Love, is totally beyond the power of any external force to affect us: "nothing outside yourself can hurt you, or disturb your peace or upset you in any way" (W-pI.70.2:2). The world certainly has power over our bodies, but cannot touch the mind. It would be like believing a puppet can affect the puppeteer, or a computer change its programmer—perhaps in the worlds of Rod Serling's Twilight Zone or Stanley Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey, but not in the world of dreams, where only the dreamer has the power to affect the dream; it is not the other way around. Thus, as in Gloria's dream, we are safe to be anywhere, with anyone, in any situation, and rest secure in the peace of God and the thought that we are safe within His Love:
Completely undismayed, this thought will carry you through storms and strife, past misery and pain, past loss and death, and onward to the certainty of God. There is no suffering it cannot heal. There is no problem that it cannot solve.…and while the world is torn by winds of hate your rest remains completely undisturbed. Yours is the rest of truth (W-pI.109.3:2-4; 4:2-3).
Correcting our mistaken choice for the ego's separation, we happily resume our identification with the Holy Spirit's Atonement. This identification had been interrupted for but an instant—an instant that was never real—though the dream of separation seemed to extend almost to eternity. Returned to sanity, we remember our Identity as love, and gladly realize we never left the safety of our home as we awaken at last to our Self.
Helen's early poem, "The Eternal Safety," offers a gentle conclusion to our discussion, sweetly describing the eternal safety that is ours when we remember our Identity as God's sinless Son. At one in His Love and untouched by dreams of sin and fear, we forever remain as He created us:
Holy am I. By Love created, and
By Love sustained. For I have never left
The Everlasting Arms. I am beset
By dreams of sin, and grim forebodings seem
To steal away my peace, and leave me prey
To terror and malignant destiny.
Yet does my holiness remain untouched,
As God created it. For there can be
No sin in God, and therefore none in me.
(The Gifts of God, p. 28)