Volume 7 Number 3 September 1996
Dr. Kenneth Wapnick, Ph.D.
THE FEAR OF GOD AND COMPASSION FOR OTHERS
The fear of God is the beginning of wisdom (Psalms 111:10).
The fear of God is the beginning of knowledge (Proverbs 1:7).
Behold, the fear of God, that is wisdom (Job 28:28).
The Western world is surely familiar enough with the above quotations from the Bible. These are incredible statements, even if one grants the contention of scripture scholars that the use of the word fear here also connotes awe; in the original Hebrew the word used does mean fear, and is consistently used in that way throughout the Old Testament. Clearly, an essential aspect of the attitude reflected in the Bible towards God[1} is one of fear, if not terror, because of His extreme punishments for disobedience and disrespect that are recorded throughout most of its books. Therefore, we can state that at least in part, the intention expressed in these lines is that only those who fear their Creator can attain a state of wisdom and knowledge, and that such fear is indeed a desired and even holy state, and an integral part of the spiritual path. Some questions, however, are immediately raised:
1. What kind of mind could have had such a thought?
2. How is it that that thought resonates so clearly with the biblical audience, then and now?
3. Why is it today that sermons are still given in temples and churches throughout the world on this theme?
4. Why are children still being brought up with the idea that to fear God is a good thing?
In this article, we shall answer these questions and explore why this idea has held such prominence throughout the ages in many religions and by so many people. Second, we shall discuss how, because of this fear of God, true and loving compassion towards others is impossible. This will remain the case unless this underlying fear is first exposed and then let go through forgiveness.
The god that the Bible portrays is a person, an individual made—to reverse the biblical phrase (Genesis 2:26)—in the “image and likeness” of man, who then demands that he be worshiped in a specific way because he is, after all, a jealous god (Exodus 20:5). Moreover, he is a god who becomes angry and wrathful when his commandments and statutes are not kept. Interestingly enough, many of these same traits are an integral part of the pantheon of gods and goddesses of ancient Greece. Yet because we consider these divine figures to be mythological, we are entertained and amused as we read of their adolescent antics, puerile pranks, and childish temper tantrums. Not so with the events described in the Bible, however, which is believed by the faithful to be the inspired word of God, and therefore not to be questioned but accepted as the truth.
A study of the psychology of A Course in Miracles would help clarify that the above traits are a projection of the split mind that aligned itself with the ego thought system. Furthermore, this projection has led many world religions—certainly the biblical ones—to include these traits in their design of a creator God. And so the idea of a jealous, angry, and punishing deity has been enshrined in the pages of the “sacred” biblical texts for close to three thousand years. And yet relatively few have asked, “How can this be?” Obviously, since these ego traits have been exhibited in almost all of humanity since the dawn of existence, it should come as no surprise that the seeming creator of these creatures must share in the same unhappy aspects of what it means to be human. For how could it not be so? It must be that the writers of the scriptural books project their own unconscious characteristics onto the characters they are writing about, much as playwrights and novelists are always writing about themselves, and nocturnal dreamers fill their dreams with split-off parts of their own selves.
Our unconscious role in all this is forgotten, however, and we simply end up believing that our made-up projections are reality. Thus it is that the projected God is seen to be a real and objective figure that needs to be reckoned with. Therefore, if people are brought up believing that the biblical deity is fearful because of all the traits he exhibits in his relationship with his creatures, attested to by the stories told in the Bible, it stands to reason that they must also believe that the only way they can acquire wisdom or knowledge—that must reflect the divine—is to embrace an attitude of fear. At the very least, they hope that their actions will not offend the omnipotent, irrational, and greatly feared god, and spur him on even further to vengeance and wrathful punishment.
The time has come, and is truly past due, for humanity to drop all such notions about the Godhead, since we can certainly observe the effects throughout history of keeping such a notion of God in our consciousness. These images of the divine have not been uplifting, have not fostered any true advance of consciousness, nor have they brought love and forgiveness to our relationships with each other. In fact, the results of such a theology have been quite destructive, if we look clearly and without denial at the pages of history, and trace the course of our ofttimes convoluted and ambivalent mythologies.
To paraphrase a term from the years of “Reaganomics,” we may speak of the deleterious effects of trickle-down theology. For example, there is the belief that one could be singled out by God to be one of his chosen or special ones—whether an individual (a prophet, an apostle, or Jesus himself) or entire groups (the children of Israel, Christians, or priests). This can only lead to an attitude of arrogance, since the believers will inevitably think of themselves as justified in feeling superior, since God has bestowed a special gift on them, and not on others. The ugly fruits of such specialness are many: For example, John Calvin, the highly influential Protestant reformer, promoted the idea that those who are favored by God are easily recognizable by their good economic position, and that God preordained only a certain number of people for salvation. Also, many Jews and Christians have developed an unseemly sense of pride, because they believe they are better and more enlightened than other groups, and are actually living in a state of grace because they follow what they believe to be the laws of God. In truth, of course, these are really the laws that people made up to worship God, but, again, forgetting what they had done, they now believe that the various commandments and statutes are God’s holy word, to be obeyed without question. Human beings constantly impute to God or the gods the hallucinations of a disturbed mind. Unfortunately, this serious malady of disordered or deranged thinking has been tolerated for thousands of years.
A Course in Miracles, on the other hand, announces the dawning of a new era, a time period that contains a new paradigm for living. In its pages the Love of the true, living God is reflected for us as we learn that our Creator and Source cannot be known in a state of fear, and that wisdom and knowledge, which are truly of God, remain hidden to a split mind that is dreaming a dream of fear, which Jesus tells us is our state of mind until we awaken.
The God that Jesus teaches us about in A Course in Miracles is not a person nor an individual, even though in the Course he uses the traditional words Father and Creator. Such usage is for our comfort, because the non-dualistic truth would be too alarming for us who believe that we are concrete, specific, and separated individuals. As he explains to us in the text:
Since you believe that you are separate, Heaven presents itself to you as separate, too. Not that it is in truth, but that the link that has been given you to join the truth may reach to you through what you understand. Father and Son and Holy Spirit are as One, as all your brothers join as one in truth. ...It is the Holy Spirit’s function to teach you how this oneness is experienced....
All this [the Holy Spirit’s teaching of forgiveness] takes note of time and place as if they were discrete, for while you think that part of you is separate, the concept of a oneness joined as one is meaningless. … Yet must It [our Teacher] use the language that this mind can understand, in the condition in which it thinks it is. And It must use all learning to transfer illusions to the truth, taking all false ideas of what you are, and leading you beyond them to the truth that is beyond them (T-25.I.5:1-3; 6:4-7:1,4-5).
Indeed, God is the Source of all that is unseen, which is a non-dualistic totality—what the Course calls reality—and which, again, cannot be understood by a dualistic brain that has been programmed by the ego mind not to understand:
When you made visible what is not true, what is true became invisible to you. … Yet it is no more up to you to decide what is visible and what is invisible. … The definition of reality is God’s, not yours. He created it, and He knows what it is. You who knew have forgotten ... (T-12.VIII.3:1,4,6-8).
We can therefore apprehend from Jesus’ teachings in A Course in Miracles that God is pure mind, pure spirit, and the Source of all being, and that Christ, our true Identity, is an Idea—also pure mind and spirit—in the Mind of God. Jesus is quite deliberate when he talks about creation having nothing to do with the material world, because God did not create the physical universe, the world of perception: matter, specifics, individuality, creatures such as homo sapiensor any other specific form in the animal, vegetable, or mineral kingdoms. As Jesus tells us in two places:
God’s laws do not obtain directly to a world perception rules, for such a world could not have been created by the Mind to which perception has no meaning (T-25.III.2:1).
The world you see is an illusion of a world. God did not create it, for what He creates must be eternal as Himself. Yet there is nothing in the world you see that will endure forever. Some things will last in time a little while longer than others. But the time will come when all things visible will have an end (C-4.1).
Moreover, regarding the oneness of Heaven, we are taught:
God shares His Fatherhood with you who are His Son, for He makes no distinctions in what is Himself and what is still Himself. What He creates is not apart from Him, and nowhere does the Father end, the Son begin as something separate from Him (W-pI.132.12:3-4).
Stated another way, the God that A Course in Miracles presents to us is Divine Abstraction, formless, non-specific, a totality of Love, a Source which encompasses all being within Itself and that, to say it one more time, cannot be understood by our sleeping, dualistic selves:
Complete abstraction is the natural condition of the mind. … The mind that taught itself to think specifically can no longer grasp abstraction in the sense that it is all-encompassing
It therefore goes without saying that the true God, being pure abstract Love, is the exact antithesis of the biblical god, whose ego characteristics we have already described. In part to correct the belief system that is presented in the New Testament, Jesus included the following important passage in A Course in Miracles:
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 (T-3.I.2:4-9).
Obviously, Jesus is pleading with us in the above quotation, as he does many other times in A Course in Miracles, to look at our beliefs and examine our theology about the nature of God and what we really feel about our Source, since this trickle-down effect is all-pervasive and quite insidious in its results. The two-thousand-year history of Western civilization, and for that matter all of history, with its killing, torture, wars, and abominations, certainly bears witness to an unsurpassed cruelty that seems inherent in all members of homo sapiens. Moreover, many of these bloody wars were indeed fought in the name of God, as were the tortures and witch-burnings that tragically have been such an integral part of Christian history.
Modern psychology has given us the tools whereby to understand the dilemmas of human existence caused by the unconscious psyche of human beings. And A Course in Miracles picks up where psychology has left off. In his Course, Jesus identifies the unconscious thoughts that lead to brutality, equating them with the belief and thought that we could become separated from our Source, annihilate our Creator, and become self-created and make a world “the opposite of Heaven” (T-16.V.3:6). This “tiny, mad idea” (T-27.VIII.6:2) spawned the split mind, part of which contained the ideas of sin, guilt, and fear. Furthermore, Jesus teaches us that consciousness is the domain of the ego, and “was the first split introduced into the mind” after the thought of separation seemed to occur (T-3.IV.2:1). Denial of sin, guilt, and fear means that these thoughts are placed out of awareness, or put into the unconscious. Once they are repressed, they are inevitably projected out of the mind, either onto our own bodies (sickness) or onto another’s (anger and attack). So it should come as no surprise that if part of our mind—what A Course in Miracles calls the wrong mind or the ego—believes that it has destroyed God, the Source of all Love, and made up a world that is an attack on Him (W-pII.3.2:1), that world must consist of sin, guilt, fear, hatred, and viciousness. Of this condition of the opposite of Heaven, world history unhappily provides ongoing witness without end. On and on throughout the centuries, the ego thought system has played out different scenarios of victim and victimizer, of blame, hatred, usurpation, and murder. And being caught up in it, the dream figures we think of as ourselves have made a god in their own image and likeness, and then have proceeded to worship and fear this bizarre creator that is really their own miscreation.
 To help distinguish between the ego god and the true God, we are reserving capitalization only for the latter. The biblical God is capitalized where the reference is clearly to the specific character called God; e.g., the one whom we fear.