Volume 9 Number 4 December 1998
Dr. Kenneth Wapnick, Ph.D.
JESUS: THE HOPE IN HOPELESSNESS
In 1978 Helen Schucman, scribe of A Course in Miracles, wrote down the prose poem The Gifts of God.1 This wonderful piece was originally a series of messages from Jesus to Helen, beginning at a time of great anxiety for her. The full details of the circumstances of this writing are chronicled in my Absence from Felicity: The Story of Helen Schucman and Her Scribing of "A Course in Miracles,"2 but sufficeth to say that the consoling message did not achieve any demonstrable effects in its reluctant recipient. Nonetheless, The Gifts of God remains an inspiring example, albeit a minor one—A Course in Miracles, of course, being the major example—of how even in the midst of an ego attack, one still has the capacity to choose to hear God's Voice present another message.
These messages continued over a two-month period, long after the crisis passed, and in one of these segments Jesus stated:
Come unto me. There is no need to dream of an escape from dreaming. It will fail. For if the dream were real, escape would be impossible and there would be no hope except illusions. Do not yield to this. It is not so. For I am not a dream that comes in mockery (The Gifts of God, p. 121; italics mine in the final sentence).
In view of other messages Helen received, not to mention strong statements and implications in
A Course in Miracles itself, one can easily see here a reference to the traditional view of Jesus who, from the Course's perspective, is a dualistic dream figure whose very physical presence, perceived as reality, mocks the living Oneness of God's Love and the non-corporeal, perfect nature of His sinless creation. It is this traditional Jesus who—not to mention his Father—indeed believes in the very palpable presence of the dream of sin, from which escape is possible only through his sacrificial act of atonement and death. This biblical figure is clearly pictured as believing in the indelible reality of the world—a world of sin no less—he was sent into in order to save. Thus was the dream's seeming existence reinforced, and true forgiveness now becomes even further removed from accomplishment. In the supplement-pamphlet "The Song of Prayer," the forgiveness that is applied to one whose sin we believe is real and, moreover, who has truly wronged us or others is termed forgiveness-to-destroy (S-2.II). Under the illusion of benevolence, the mind's underlying hatred is thereby allowed to continue unnoticed, merely awaiting continued projection so that its venom can find some suitable expression in a body—anybody—external to the unconscious mind.
In this way, the world's Jesus, as opposed to the truly historical figure who appeared in Palestine two thousand years ago, ended up serving the ego's master plan of making the error of sin real, necessitating elaborate plans and ingenious schemes to undo it. This practice of forgiveness-to-destroy is what enabled Christianity to thrive, at the same time that it reinforced the ego's thought system of sin and specialness. And it all centered on the one the Bible and Christians ever after referred to as Jesus of Nazareth.
This Jesus, who comes in mockery, offers us no hope, because he has become part of the problem. An integral part of the world's dream of sin and salvation, from which there is no real hope—There is no need to dream of an escape from dreaming. It will fail. For if the dream were real, escape would be impossible and there would be no hope except illusions—the one the world remembers as Jesus eclipsed the true figure of Jesus who disappeared into the reality that lies behind the dream. It would be as if Jesus appeared to Helen as part of her anxiety dream, reinforcing the reality of her seeming problems, and then offered her a way out of them. True help could only come with Jesus remaining outside her problem. His plea to her—in The Gifts of God as well as in all his other messages to her, including and especially A Course in Miracles—was always to take his hand and walk with him out of the dream into the real world, the borderland that exists between illusion and reality. From there it is but an instant more until we pass beyond the dream's veil of time into eternity:
This is my offering: A quiet world, with gentle ordering and kindly thought, alive with hope and radiant in joy, without the smallest bitterness of fear upon its loveliness. Accept this now, for I have waited long to give this gift to you....Come now to me and we will go to God....How beautiful are you who stand beside me at the gate, and call with me that everyone may come and step aside from time. Put out your hand to touch eternity and disappear into its perfect rest (The Gifts of God, pp. 118,122).
The pioneering work of Sigmund Freud, the founder of psychoanalysis, offers us a wonderful insight into what went wrong with the world's relationship with Jesus, and why things worked out so badly for two thousand years thereafter, with his hope-filled vision of the real world kept hidden behind the mockery of salvation offered to the world instead. It is almost a century now since Freud first coined the term dreams of convenience to capture for us an experience almost all people share, and it is here that we find our parallel to the problem of Jesus, just as in A Course in Miracles Jesus uses our sleeping dreams as a model for helping us to understand the dynamics of the waking dreams we refer to as our "life" here on earth (see, e.g., T-2.I.4; T-10.I.2-3; and T-18.II). An example of a dream of convenience is while we are asleep and enjoying a restful dream, an external stimulus suddenly penetrates into the peace and threatens to disturb our sleep. However, a dynamic mechanism within the brain comes to our rescue as it were, and incorporates the stimulus into the dream so that we may remain comfortably asleep and continue the pleasant experience of the dream. Thus, for example, a ringing telephone piercing the quiet of our bedroom now becomes an integral symbol within the dream, allowing us to modify it as we see fit—answer the phone, have the phone stop ringing, turn on the answering machine, etc.—much like a cybernetic whiz can scan a photograph into a computer, and modify it as suits the perceived need -- changing colors, shapes, and sizes, not to mention omitting unwanted details and making up those that are desired. And so our sleep continues unabated, and to borrow the lovely phrase from the text: "Not one note in our dream's song was missed" (T-26.V.5:4).
Freud's account of these sleeping dreams of convenience is worth quoting, especially in light of our discussion of Jesus being the "external stimulus" that threatens the ontological sleep of the dreaming Son. All the references are to The Interpretation of Dreams3first published in 1900, except for the first one, which comes in a letter to Wilhelm Fliess, written in 1899:4
You dream to avoid having to wake up, because you want to sleep (p. 283; italics mine).
All dreams are in a sense dreams of convenience: they serve the purpose of prolonging sleep instead of waking up....if it [the mind] is obliged to recognize them [external stimuli], it seeks for an interpretation of them which will make the currently active sensation into a component part of a situation which is wished for and which is consistent with sleeping. The currently active sensation is woven into a dream in order to rob it of reality (p. 233).
The operation of the wish to continue sleeping is most easily to be seen in arousal dreams, which modify external sensory stimuli in such a way as to make them compatible with a continuance of sleep; they weave them into a dream in order to deprive them of any possibility of acting as reminders of the external world (p. 571; italics mine).
There are several ways in which a sleeper may react to an external sensory stimulus. He may wake up or he may succeed in continuing his sleep in spite of it. In the latter case he may make use of a dream in order to get rid of the external stimulus....by dreaming that he is in a situation which is absolutely incompatible with the stimulus (pp. 680-81; italics mine).
Extrapolating Freud's insights to the situation experienced with Jesus, we can see how people chose to remain asleep by excluding Jesus, the stimulus external to their dream of a life of individuality and materiality. They accomplished this by bringing him into their dream of specialness and the body, continuing to dream that they were "in a situation which is absolutely incompatible" with his non-corporeal and non-special reality beyond the dreaming of the world. And once they wove Jesus into the world's dream, they had inevitably deprived themselves of any possibility of his "acting as [a] reminder[s]" of his world, for they chose "to rob [him] of [his] reality." And so their dream succeeded in its aim "to get rid" of him. And all this simply to continue "to avoid having to wake up," because they wished to continue the sleep of separation so that they might continue the dream of specialness and sin.
The bottom line, therefore, is that we do not want to awaken, and so we settle for false hopes of happiness instead. These hopes always entail a desire not only for some respite within the dream of pain and suffering, which is certainly understandable, but also the equation of such surcease from pain with the peace of Heaven. Indeed, one usually needs to be free from physical or psychological pain in order to move ultimately beyond them to the underlying separation and guilt that is the true cause of our suffering. But the challenge is to resist the temptation to worship the idol and instead move on to the true God Who is "beyond all idols" (T-30.III). And so, defending against the return to this God, the need for idols is born, elsewhere referred to in A Course in Miracles as our special love relationships:
Idols are but substitutes for your reality. In some way, you believe they will complete your little self, for safety in a world perceived as dangerous, with forces massed against your confidence and peace of mind. They have the power to supply your lacks, and add the value that you do not have. No one believes in idols who has not enslaved himself to littleness and loss. And thus must seek beyond his little self for strength to raise his head, and stand apart from all the misery the world reflects (T-29.VIII.2:2-6).
And one of the world's greatest idols, the embodiment of false hopes, was Jesus, of whom the Course says: "Some bitter idols have been made of him who would be only brother to the world" (C-5.5:7). Rather than reminding us of his reality beyond the dream, he became a substitute for this Self—an idol—whose purpose was that of proving the reality of our dream. And so instead of our becoming like him, we made him become like us, the image and likeness of a physical self, yet one more special and holy than we.
Interestingly, in A Course in Miracles Jesus provides us with just such a description of a dream of convenience:
If a light is suddenly turned on while someone is dreaming a fearful dream, he may initially interpret the light itself as part of his dream and be afraid of it. However, when he awakens, the light is correctly perceived as the release from the dream, which is then no longer accorded reality. This release does not depend on illusions. The knowledge that illuminates not only sets you free, but also shows you clearly that you are free (T-2.I.4:6-9).
And so it was with Jesus. Like a light that has been turned on in our bedroom, calling the Son of God to awaken from his comfortable dream of individuality, specialness, sin, and death, Jesus appeared suddenly within the world's dream. His very presence stated the following: this world of time and space is a dream that in truth is already over; it is possible to awaken from this dream by listening to my words and following my example; the many idols you believe in are not true because the real God is not the personal or tribal god of your ancestors, but an impersonal God of Totality, Oneness, and Love. Those who experienced this stimulus had the choice whether to awaken and answer his call, or to see him as a noxious and fearful influence, remain asleep and, like our aforementioned computer whiz, bring him into their illusory dream of physical reality, sin, and magical redemption, thereby omitting the reality deemed as unacceptable, changing him as suited their own specific needs.
As with our nocturnal dreamer, the Son of God had, and still has the choice of either to awaken from his sleep and join Jesus outside the dream, or else to bring Jesus into his dream, thereby remaining asleep. The decision to awaken from the dream and to answer Jesus' call is also the decision to say I no longer want to remain asleep. And that is the difficult part of the decision: saying no to the dream. It is this rejection of the ego's lure to remain as an individual that is the core of the change of mind that is the goal of A Course in Miracles, and an important reminder for all of us…. It is the rejection of our thoughts of judgment and attack, of separation and manipulation. It is the acceptance of Jesus' loving presence in our minds that reminds us of the happiness that lies beyond all dreams.
Jesus, as a thought of perfect love, is the light of that love shining throughout the dreaming mind of the Sonship, bearing a message different from the world's manifestations of the ego's voice. Therefore, to understand how Jesus is our hope, we must first recognize and accept the hopelessness of finding any happiness within the world's dream. Only then can we know who he truly is—a thought of love in the mind, and not a body—since understanding the purpose of his appearance will enable us to understand its meaning. His message is of the inherent hopelessness of trying to find salvation in the world, and the true hope of salvation in the mind. And so we can understand that he has come indeed as a light of hope into the darkened dream of hopelessness; a star that does not shine outside ourselves, but in the Heaven within, calling us but to accept his loving presence as the sign that the time of Christ has come (T-15.XI.2:1-2). "Come my child," he calls to us, "Come unto me and let me gently lead you home, for with me."
is the peace that God intended for the Son He loves. Enter with me and let its quietness cover the earth forever. It is done. Father, your Voice has called us home at last: Gone is the dream. Awake, My child, in love (The Gifts of God, pp. 122-23).
1. (Tiburon, CA: Foundation for Inner Peace, 1982)
2. (Roscoe, NY: Foundation for A Course in Miracles, 1992) pp.419-22.
3. The Standard Edition of the Complete Psychological Works of Sigmund Freud, Vols.
4,5 (London: Hogarth Press, 1953).