Volume 18 Number 1 March 2007
Dr. Kenneth Wapnick, Ph.D.
"YOU ARE MY VOICE, MY EYES, MY FEET, MY HANDS THROUGH WHICH I SAVE THE WORLD"
In the introduction to the workbook's fifth review, Jesus says:
Let this review be then your gift to me. For this alone I need; that you will hear the words I speak, and give them to the world. You are my voice, my eyes, my feet, my hands through which I save the world (W-pI.rV.in.9:1-3).
Through the confusion of form and content, this inspirational passage can be easily misconstrued to support the very specialness A Course in Miracles is meant to undo. Students believing they are bodies will think that Jesus is asking their bodies to reflect his body as they bring his message to other bodies. Addressing this confusion, we may ask four questions: What does it mean to save the world? What does it mean to be Jesus' body in the world? How many students/teachers are needed to save the world? And most importantly, How do we become his voice? This article answers these questions by way of clarifying the meaning of being Jesus' representative in the world. We begin, however, by discussing the nature of the world we believe needs saving.
What Does It Mean to Save the World?
The world you see is what you gave it, nothing more than that. But though it is no more than that, it is not less.… It is the witness to your state of mind, the outside picture of an inward condition.… Therefore, seek not to change [save] the world, but choose to change your mind about the world (T-21.in.1:2,3,5,7).
The above words, familiar to almost all students of A Course in Miracles, go to the very heart of its teachings. The world itself is nothing. Since ideas leave not their source and projection makes perception, the thought of separation we believe we can project and perceive external to us, remains in the mind. Thus, the central lesson the Course attempts to teach is that there is no world (W-pI.132.6:2-3); only a projection of a "tiny, mad idea" (T-27.VIII.6:2) that never happened. This establishes that the problem is not the world or the mad thought of separation—how can what does not exist be a problem?—but our decision-making mind's belief in it. The distinction is crucial, for our hope of Heaven depends on it. Indeed, the ego made the world and body—the literal state of mindlessness—to keep us from gaining access to the mind, the source of the only problem and its solution. Remaining mindless, however, ensures that we will never return to the mind and choose again: Heaven or hell, God or the ego, Mind or world. And so, what needs to be saved is not a non-existent world, but the mind of God's Son who believes he can exist apart from his Source.
The insanity of trying to save the world, therefore, is that it pits two illusions against each other: an illusory self trying to save an illusory world. This can only end in illusion, as we read in another context:
The war against yourself is but the battle of two illusions, struggling to make them different from each other, in the belief the one that conquers will be true. There is no conflict between them and the truth. Nor are they different from each other. Both are not true. And so it matters not what form they take. What made them is insane [i.e., the ego], and they remain part of what made them (T-23.I.6:1-6).
It is helpful to understand what is involved with this mistake of confusing the nature of the problem; so that not only will we not be tempted to make the error, but we will feel better when we do not. One of the ego's main ploys in its defense against truth is to bring it into illusion, thereby making real the error of separation and sin. It accomplishes this by having the spiritual—God, Jesus, A Course in Miracles, or any other spirituality—be involved with the world. If the spiritual interacts with the physical, it must be real, which in turn means that we are real. We thus have a strong investment in there being a world, because this ensures that our separate and special identity is preserved. Note the following from the text:
This world was over long ago. The thoughts that made it are no longer in the mind that thought of them and loved them for a little while.…
All the effects of guilt are here no more. For guilt is over. In its passing went its consequences, left without a cause. Why would you cling to it in memory if you did not desire its effects?
(T-28.I.1:6-7; 2:1-4; italics mine)
These effects embrace a self-concept of innocence that establishes another's guilt, which deserves a punishment that will not be ours. And what better way to preserve this innocent self than placing God at our side? The ego, therefore, brilliantly makes a thought system and world, and by bringing God into it, ensures that not only have we in fact separated, but that the world arising from separation is at once holy and sinful, and certainly important. Thus despite the illusory nature of the world and the guilt that made it—both having been over long ago—we still believe in them because we want the differentiated identity they prove is here.
Take A Course in Miracles for example, despite its explicit teachings that the world exists only in dreams, many of its students will ask Jesus or the Holy Spirit for help here—a here that is truly nowhere. However, Jesus teaches us that "This is a course in cause [the mind's thoughts] and not effect [the body's behavior]" (T-21.VII.7:8). Thus involving Jesus in the dream becomes a perfect way of preserving the thought system of separation that made the world, which means preserving the thought system that made us. We unconsciously decide that rather than our joining the Course, we will have it join us, though it does not look that way. Moreover, as "good students" of A Course in Miracles, we will extend it into the world. Words that have nothing to do with behavior are twisted to mean that Jesus wants us to bring his course to others. Yet what we secretly do—secret even to ourselves—is preserve the very thought system of mindless separation the Course attempts to undo. We repress our hidden decision to remain asleep so we shall not awaken from the ego's dream of separation.
And so we need to examine our position and end the dissociation that enables us to practice what Jesus is not teaching us. After all, why would we think he cares about a world he tells us is not there? Such thinking is a deliberate—albeit unconscious—subterfuge and smokescreen. The world was made as "a place where God could enter not" (W-pII.3.2:4)—an attack on Him and His Love—being a projection of the thought that excludes Him from our self. It is thus a projection of the lie that says the separation from God is a fact, and that an opposite to Heaven now exists: me. Why, then, would Jesus want to save a world that was made to be love's opposite and exists only in dreams? But he does want to save the mind from its belief in the reality of this illusory world of guilt. Accepting the Atonement for ourselves denies guilt's reality, which in turn denies the reality of the separation. This right-minded denial does not repress, but simply denies the ego's assertion that it exists.
It therefore makes no sense to do good deeds if they do not follow from our having chosen the "good" thought system. Moreover, if doing good deeds makes us feel positive about ourselves, we have a problem, since the only thing that can truly make us feel good is letting go of grievances or judgments. This parallels the early statement in the text: "All real pleasure comes from doing God's Will" (T-1.VII.1:4). Later on Jesus tells us: "You have no idea of the tremendous release and deep peace that comes from meeting yourself and your brothers totally without judgment" (T-3.VI.3:1). We know this peace has happened when we have no expectations or investment in having external consequences of our choosing that peace. If we think, for example, that as students of A Course in Miracles our function is to bring its message to the world, it had better protect itself—from us. One who is truly healed does not proclaim it to the world, nor indulge in grandiose fantasies of being the world's savior. Such proclamations reveal the underlying self-doubt that reflects the profound guilt over the belief that one has usurped God's role in Heaven and the Holy Spirit's in the dream. Guilt that remains unconscious is inevitably projected, often with tragic results. Two thousand years of Christian evangelism is but one example. Unfortunately, missionaries of A Course in Miracles are no different, for what they bring are the blessings of specialness, not those of Jesus' non-exclusive love and his message of mindful awareness.
If we feel concern about the fate of A Course in Miracles in the world, we know we are expressing the ego's secret desire to remain asleep. If we truly identified with Jesus' course, our only concern would be whether or not we are learning it. Over and over, in many different forms, we read the line that is the key to his message: "The sole responsibility of the miracle worker is to accept the Atonement for himself" (T-2.V.5:1). Our function is not to convert the world to A Course in Miracles, nor to see to it that it reaches everyone. Our only responsibility is choosing to have our minds healed. Whenever we are interested in anything else, or have a need to join with other Course students, we know we have shifted emphasis from our mind's healing to the body's and world's. Only the decision not to awaken from the dream could cause such confusion of function, wherein we believe that Jesus has given us the special work of teaching his course to the world. Yet his only message to us is to accept his message. That is all:
Again, if we focus on the world outside, we have not learned the lesson that there is no world. Once more, should we really be concerned how this peace extends into a world that is not there?
Thus, we save ourselves, not the world. This does not mean, however, that we should not meet with other students of the Course, nor do things in the world. We do whatever we feel is loving, but once invested in our "important" work we have trouble. Given the non-dualistic metaphysics of A Course in Miracles, could what the body does be important? Only the ego would think this way. What alone is important is being engaged in the process of having our minds healed through forgiveness. In this way, we continually ask the Teacher of forgiveness to help us learn His lessons, which reflect our willingness to awaken from the dream.
We act in whatever way love guides us, but it is important to consider that since Jesus does not care what we do—how could he?—why should we? Our concern is only with whom we think: the ego or the Holy Spirit. This greatly simplifies our lives and makes experiences here meaningful, as the self-imposed burden of having to save the world will gently slip from our shoulders.
Once again, I am not speaking of behavior, but of investment in the behavior. Hamlet said: "There's nothing good or bad, but thinking makes it so." Analogously, there is nothing holy or unholy, but our belief makes it so. The only thing that is good or holy is the process of accepting the Atonement for ourselves. With Jesus' help, we learn to be passive to the ego yet active to the Holy Spirit. By so doing, we do not compromise the Course's non-dualistic principles while living in a dualistic world and being faithful to our roles and responsibilities.
At least three different times in the Course, with different words—holiness, the miracle, and forgiveness—we are told of our responsibility:
Concern yourself not with the extension of holiness, for the nature of miracles you do not understand.… Why should you worry how the miracle extends to all the Sonship when you do not understand the miracle itself? (T-16.II.1:3,6)
Extension of forgiveness is the Holy Spirit's function. Leave this to Him. Let your concern be only that you give to Him that which can be extended.…[and] offer Him the tiny gifts He can extend forever. He will take each one and make of it a potent force for peace.…[making] each little gift of love a source of healing for everyone. Each little gift you offer to your brother lights up the world (T-22.VI.9:2-6,8-9).
The miracle extends without your help, but you are needed that it can begin. Accept the miracle of healing, and it will go forth because of what it is. It is its nature to extend itself the instant it is born.… The Holy Spirit speaks to you. He does not speak to someone else. Yet by your listening His Voice extends, because you have accepted what He says (T-27. V.1:2-4,10-12).
Each of these references emphasizes that our only responsibility is to choose holiness, the miracle, or forgiveness. Their extension through us is not our responsibility. Restated, we are asked only to accept the Atonement—"what He says"—by learning the lessons Jesus teaches us. How those lessons of forgiveness extend through us to others is the concern only of our arrogance and specialness.
The "words" Jesus wants us to give to the world are the unspoken words of forgiveness and the miracle: his loving peace. This is the content behind the form of the Course's words. When he tells us that the notes of the forgotten song are nothing (T-21.I.7:1), he means that his love should speak through us, not the words or concepts themselves. To quote the Catholic Church's greatest theologian, St. Thomas Aquinas, after his mystical experience near the end of his life: "All that I have written seems to me like so much straw compared to what I have seen and what has been revealed to me." Similarly, Jesus wants his love to speak through us, just as it did through Helen Schucman, his scribe. The words she wrote down tell us that "words are but symbols of symbols [and]…are thus twice removed from reality" (M-21.1:9-10). Moreover, these words teach that there is no world to save, only the one mind of God's insane Son, which needs to be saved from its investment in guilt. The mind is thus returned to the choice point where it first chose wrongly: "Your part is merely to return your thinking to the point at which the error was made, and give it over to the Atonement in peace" (T-5.VII.6:5). With the Holy Spirit's help, we return our thinking to the mind's decision-making point at which the error was made—the decision to believe the ego instead of the Holy Spirit—and choose again.
Love and peace having been chosen by our right minds, they will automatically extend through us, gently infusing everything we say and do. This flow, however, will be impeded by our specialness: the investment in the effects of our decision. Such concern means we have chosen the ego, for Jesus looks not to effects (the world), but only to the cause (the mind's belief in sin) (T-27.VIII.9:1-4). This means that we do not care about what is outside, but about what we choose to believe inside. In the presence of Heaven's loving oneness, we know God's Son is one. This love, with which we have chosen to identify, extends throughout the mind of God's one fragmented Son, calling it back to his natural oneness. We cannot then but become truly loving and kind.
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