Volume 24 Number 1 March 2013
Kenneth Wapnick, Ph.D.
Keep Your Eyes on the Prize
Remembering Our Purpose
Part 2 of 2
Holding Jesus' Hand
It is an essential part of the Course's curriculum that we never proceed without the help and guidance of our Inner Teacher, the Holy Spirit or Jesus. As discussed just above, Jesus is a symbol of our right minds, to which we go when we recognize the futility and pain inherent in choosing to be separate from God and from each other. It is important if we are to complete the journey from body (judgment) to mind (vision) that we make the transition from symbol to source, the forms of love to its content. For us, then, Jesus is such a symbol:
The name of Jesus Christ as such is but a symbol. But it stands for love that is not of this world. It is a symbol that is safely used as a replacement for the many names of all the gods to which you pray (M-23.4:1-3).
Jesus' love, representing our Source's Love, is both the means and end for us as we journey home with him. We so gratefully think of him as our hearts intone the words that were originally meant to denote God:
Our Love awaits us as we go to Him, and walks beside us showing us the way. He fails in nothing. He the End we seek, and He the Means by which we go to Him (W-pII.302.2).
This is the meaning of the moving line at the end of the text, where Jesus exhorts us to hold his outstretched hand as we keep our eyes fixed on the radiant prize that is always shining in our minds:
In joyous welcome is my hand outstretched to every brother who would join with me in reaching past temptation, and who looks with fixed determination toward the light that shines beyond in perfect constancy (T-31.VIII.11:1).
Now choosing Jesus as our teacher, we keep our eyes on salvation's prize, walking with him as we traverse the apparently perilous path that inevitably leads us through the darkness of hell. Despite the Scyllas and Charybdes of the ego's treacherous handiwork of special love and special hate, we are comforted by knowing that Jesus is with us, leading us through the ego's labyrinth of the night, to adopt Goethe's evocative phrase. He reassures us when he says that within our dreamworld of specialness, his guiding us through the tenebrous clouds of guilt to the light is no "idle fantasy" (W-pI.70.8-9).
Taking Jesus' hand and holding fast to his love represents our change of mind from following the ego's guilt-driven guidance: from guilt, through guilt, returning to guilt. Having recognized the cost to us of losing the prize of salvation, we joyfully choose a different teacher. In this regard, Jesus does not counsel us to fight the ego, attempting to defeat it as an enemy. Rather, he encourages us to look at the illusory ego through his eyes, denying its denial of truth (T-12.II.1:5), the gentle process of acceptance that heralds truth's return to our heretofore closed minds that have been purified of thoughts that were never truly there:
When you unite with me you are uniting without the ego, because I have renounced the ego in myself and therefore cannot unite with yours. Our union is therefore the way to renounce the ego in you.… Leave all illusions behind, and reach beyond all attempts of the ego to hold you back. I go before you because I am beyond the ego. Reach, therefore, for my hand because you want to transcend the ego (T-8.V.4:1-2; 6:6-8).
We are motivated to choose Jesus as our teacher through our desire for the goal, the loving prize of our homecoming that he assures will be ours once we take his hand and walk the pathway of forgiveness. Yet we need to be ever-vigilant lest the ego's goals of special gratifications, which appear to satisfy our physical and psychological needs, resume their wrong-minded place on center stage. These temptations often become particularly strong and seductive when our egos (i.e., the part of our split minds that likes being us) feel threatened by definite incursions into its special ramparts of guilt and attack through our choosing a different teacher (see, for example, T-8.V.5:5-6; T-9.VII.4:4-7). That is when we need to trust Jesus all the more, which really means trusting ourselves to complete the process of forgiveness that we have begun, no longer tolerating the need to skip the painful steps of looking at the ego's ugliness. Our beloved teacher encourages us not to accord any power to the darkness, for the light of truth is stronger than any illusion, despite its apparent ability to halt our progress:
As the light comes nearer you will rush to darkness, shrinking from the truth, sometimes retreating to the lesser forms of fear, and sometimes to stark terror.… Let us then join quickly in an instant of light, and it will be enough to remind you that your goal is light.… I hold your hand as surely as you agreed to take your brother's. You will not separate, for I stand with you and walk with you in your advance to truth (T-18.III.2:1,5; 5:5-6).
The above passage further underscores, by implication, what it means to take Jesus' hand on the journey. It cannot truly be his we hold if we do not include all people. Do we really believe that Jesus' love would exclude anyone, anyone at all? Yet this we do believe when we attempt to justify our judgments, grievances, and petty hates. If the healing of God's Son is the world's only purpose, and if all of us are part of God's one Son, how can our elder brother heal us unless we bring to him all thoughts that would keep us separate from each other?
Joining with Jesus makes sense only when we join with others through forgiveness, recognizing that every seemingly separated and fragmented member of the Sonship shares the single purpose of awakening from this nightmare we call existence. We reclaim the shared prize of salvation through our all-inclusive kindness to every living and nonliving thing, beginning with the specific special love and hate relationships that are most problematic to us. These relationships are the means Jesus uses to lead us through the darkness of our fears to the light of our salvation. It would be helpful as we read the following words of comfort, filling out the previously quoted passage, to think very specifically, as the workbook lessons encourage us to do, of all those we would wish to exclude from the kingdom of our forgiveness and love, special figures from our personal and collective worlds alike:
You who hold your brother's hand also hold mine, for when you joined each other you were not alone.… In your relationship is this world's light.…[and] you have joined with me in bringing Heaven to the Son of God, who hid in darkness. You have been willing to bring the darkness to light, and this willingness has given strength to everyone who would remain in darkness (T-18.III.4:1,3; 6:1-2).
Asking Jesus for help means that we look with him at our egos, bringing to his forgiving, light-filled love the guilt-ridden darkness of all illusions. Our little willingness to release these unkind thoughts releases the loving thoughts we think with God (W-pI.rIV.in), which had been held in safekeeping for us until our readiness to claim them. This is the message of these loving words from Jesus that come early in the text:
I have saved all your kindnesses and every loving thought you ever had. I have purified them of the errors that hid their light, and kept them for you in their own perfect radiance.… I place the peace of God in your heart and in your hands, to hold and share. The heart is pure to hold it, and the hands are strong to give it. We cannot lose.… The Thoughts of God are with you (T-5.IV.8:3-4,10-12,15).
All that is required is that we recognize the insane part of our minds that would still prefer the prize of specialness, always looking out for ways of gaining it at someone else's expense, cherishing its puny and fragmenting gifts in preference to the lovingly uniting gifts of God. We look without judgment at such madness, and all the insidious ways we have sought to conceal the light of Atonement by maintaining the seeming truth of our mindless existence. By looking with Jesus, we can at last compare the ego's prize with the one our teacher holds out to us; contrasting the ego's inheritance of loss, suffering, and death with our true inheritance of eternal life and everlasting joy. Most important of all, to repeat this essential point, is our learning that in order to gain this prize of salvation for ourselves, we must share it with everyone we meet or even think about; otherwise it will not be ours.
The Prize is the Beauty of Our Inheritance As God's Son
The most wondrous fact in our choosing the prize of salvation, which is the return to our natural inheritance as God's one Son, is that it costs us nothing—literally! To have the everything that Jesus guarantees us, we are asked merely to look at the ego's seeming something, and realize it is nothing. Where then is the feeling of sacrifice or giving up something of value? What price can there be to pay for letting go of the illusion that never was, and accepting as truth what always has been? What is there that could be more relieving than to hear these words that dispel all guilt:
What guilt has wrought is ugly, fearful and very dangerous. See no illusion of truth and beauty there. And be you thankful that there is a place where truth and beauty wait for you. Go on to meet them gladly, and learn how much awaits you for the simple willingness to give up nothing because it is nothing (T-16.VI.10:4-7).
Despite our ego's protestations of how difficult this course is, how impossible to understand, learn, and practice it, it is actually quite simple and easy: let go of what is not there, and joyfully identify with the Self that is. Returning to this essential thought, we read: "This course requires almost nothing of you. It is impossible to imagine one that asks so little, or could offer more" (T-20.VII.1:7-8). When we read these words, however, the double question remains: Why do we still persist in denying ourselves the only joy possible in this world, knowing we are truly forgiven because our perceived sins had no effect on the prize of salvation Jesus holds out for us? Why do we not rush gladly to meet our truth and beauty, leaving behind the guilt-laden illusions of salvation?
Being resistant to accepting our simple happiness makes no sense unless we recognize the need for the insanity of believing the ego's lies and stories, and not believing the God Who simply thinks otherwise (T-23.I.2:7). The call of specialness that reflects our individual, autonomous self still sounds more appealing than the still, small Voice that beckons us home. Thus the purpose of A Course in Miracles: to teach us to unlearn the ego's madness—foregoing guilt's seductive temptations—thereby making room for our inner teacher, whose loving hand gently guides us to our God to claim the prize of our inheritance as His Son.
And so Jesus wants us to truly appreciate the gift he is offering, to offset the shabby gifts of specialness we have always cherished over love. He contrasts for us the ego's grandiosity/littleness with the grandeur/magnitude of God (T-9.VIII; T-15.III). All we need do to remember our greatness as Christ, the loving extension of our Source, is to look at the ego's gifts once and for all, saying: "This is no longer what I want for myself or my brothers. Instead I choose the gifts that Jesus gladly puts in my hands":
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. I offer it in place of fear and all the "gifts" that fear has given you.…when we come together there can be no way in which the Word of God can fail. For His the Word that makes us one in Him, and mine the Voice that speaks this Word to you (The Gifts of God, p. 118).
This, again, is the Word (the atoning Word of forgiveness) we share with everyone and everything, exempting no one and no thing from its universal blessing of healing.
Jesus' quiet world has no equivalent in the world the ego made. It is a world that extends the needlessness of God's right-minded Son, just as the world that was made as an attack on God (W-pII.3.2:1) is the projection of the need-dominated son of specialness, the ego's miscreation. Such neediness has its roots in the Son's ontological need to flee his sinful mind in the magical hope of escaping the ego God's wrathful vengeance. This inherent need is at the root of the body, a veritable need machine that is constantly demanding satisfaction of its need for physical survival, rest, and emotional sustenance as it exists solely to maximize its pleasure and minimize its pain. We recognize here the perennial noise the Course refers to as the ego's "raucous screams and senseless ravings" (T-21.V.1:6).
However, without needs driving our lives, we are free to remember the world of light that is our home, "trailing clouds of glory" (in Wordsworth's happy phrase) as we extend this glory to all people and all things. Thoughts of Heaven's love fill our healed minds, and our perceptions flow with the reflected magnificence of the world beyond perception. Our minds are still, and the light-filled inheritance that was God's loving promise in our creation is our only reality:
The Name of God is the inheritance He gave to those who chose the teaching of the world to take the place of Heaven.…our purpose is to let our minds accept what God has given as the answer to the pitiful inheritance [we] made as fitting tribute to the Son He loves (W-pI.184.12:5-6).
Filled with the joy of salvation, we join our voice with our elder brother's, bringing all who have walked with us on the ego's bleak road of death. Suddenly the mists of sin and guilt have lifted, leaving only the prize of salvation for us and all the world. Through the forgiving, unified eyes of Christ's vision, we joyously watch the world recede, softly fading into the nothingness from which it came (M-13.1:2). In its place arises the beauty of true perception, reflecting the radiant glory of the right-minded decision for the Atonement and its forgiveness. This loveliness is seen in all living and nonliving things alike, once we look through Jesus' eyes and see the world as he does. In great joy we hear the hymn of forgiveness as it blesses our Father's sinless and unified Son in glad acceptance of our remembering Who we are as Christ, the Child that God created one with Him:
And what has been forgiven must join, for nothing stands between to keep them separate and apart. The sinless must perceive that they are one, for nothing stands between to push the other off. And in the space that sin left vacant do they join as one, in gladness recognizing what is part of them has not been kept apart and separate (T-26.IV.2:4-6).
This joyous gladness is born in the recognition that we have kept our eyes on the prize, holding Jesus' hand for support and guidance as we learned his kind lessons of forgiveness. Paraphrasing the inspirational closing line of "For They Have Come," we say midst tears of gratitude: "Now is our and Jesus' purpose done, for we have remembered our goal and have come home, we have come home at last!" (T-26. IX.8:7-9).