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"
What Does It Mean to Be Jesus' Body in the World?
Ours are the eyes through which Christ's vision sees a world redeemed from every thought of sin. Ours are the ears that hear the Voice for God proclaim the world as sinless. Ours the minds that join together as we bless the world. And from the oneness that we have attained we call to all our brothers, asking them to share our peace and consummate our joy (W-pII.14.4).
The following biblical injunction, the antithesis of the above passage, has been cited by Christians for millennia as the basis for their missionary and proselytizing activities:
Go, therefore, make disciples of all the nations…and teach them to observe all the commands I gave you (Matthew 28:19).
Yet such behavior is not what Jesus asks of us in A Course in Miracles. Rather, he asks that we demonstrate his message by living our lives based on forgiveness of all God's Sons. Thus he says in the text:
Teach not that I died in vain. Teach rather that I did not die by demonstrating that I live in you (T-11.VI.7:3-4)
Demonstration is at the heart of his teaching message, and in the introduction to the manual for teachers, we read:
To teach is to demonstrate. There are only two thought systems, and you demonstrate that you believe one or the other is true all the time. From your demonstration others learn, and so do you (M-in.2:1-3).
Once we accept the ego thought system of separation, we have bought it in its entirety, just as when we accept Jesus' correction of forgiveness, we accept the Sonship as a whole. Forgiving one person, we have forgiven all. By the same token, when we judge one person, we have judged all. It cannot be any other way in the world of the split mind: one or the other. In like manner, if we make the world real by trying to alleviate its suffering, we merely reinforce the suffering. It certainly does not appear that way, but if we have not first alleviated our own suffering, it will be the pain of our guilt we will demonstrate. Projection makes perception: what we have made real in our minds is what we will perceive in the world, and thus act upon.
If we are sincere about helping those who suffer, we must be sure we are not angry at those we believe have inflicted the suffering. If we are, we but ensure that in our dream everyone will suffer throughout eternity. Utopian visions, however noble, have not worked because the inner work of forgiveness has not been done. And so, if we truly wish to end suffering, we must first end our belief in suffering, which begins in the mind. When this belief is undone, there will be no unkindness in us for guilt will be gone; without self-judgment there can be no judgment of others, for we have made the only important decision there is: the decision to listen to the teacher of gentleness and kindness. How, then, can we not be gentle and kind? We will know we chose Jesus and not the ego by our embrace of all people; the ones who suffer and the ones inflicting it. Having accepted the Atonement, we have become true teachers of the peace that heralds the end of all suffering.
The Buddha said that all suffering comes from desire. We can extend the usual understanding of this teaching to mean that our ultimate desire is to be an individual that can desire. All suffering, therefore, comes from the desire/decision to be separate. This is why we can never alleviate suffering on the external level, for internal suffering, based on the belief in sin and guilt, will always be projected. Any of our behavioral expressions of help to alleviate suffering must extend from the decision to alleviate our personal suffering; to end the desire to exist as a separated entity within the dream and blame others for our pain. Entering this process of healing is what it means to be a student of A Course in Miracles.
It cannot be said too often that A Course in Miracles is meant to save the mind, not the world that never left the mind. When at the close of time we disappear into the Heart of God as one Son, the world disappears as well, back into its own nothingness (M-13.1:2). It again makes no sense to attempt to save something that is not even there. If we truly care about the world and its suffering people, we need to end our mind's belief in suffering. Otherwise, we become unhealed healers (T-9.V)—a not unfamiliar identity in the world of religion and spirituality—who are concerned with healing someone else and not ourselves. To adapt a phrase from The Song of Prayer, unhealed healers practice healing-to-destroy, since they reinforce the very separation—the seeming destruction of Heaven—they wish to undo.
Since there is no world, our sole responsibility is to accept the Atonement for ourselves. Truth and illusion cannot be compromised in a non-dualistic system. Truth, which is spirit, is the only reality. Why would we want to invest our time and energy in fixing what does not exist; to heal nothing when it is nothing? What does need fixing or healing is the belief that nothing is something. To attempt to heal nothing is merely insanity. It is the belief that nothing is something that needs healing. This allows us to see the nothingness for what it is. At that point we will no longer be upset by what happens here, whether in the world at large or in our personal world.
The world cannot be fixed because it was made so it could not be fixed. Moreover, its maker—the ego—does not want it fixed, healed, or forgiven. It does not want peace, but we—in our right minds—want the mind healed that wants conflict. Once again, there is only one mind that desires conflict: our own. The challenge, therefore, is to live in a world of somethings, as a something, yet knowing we are nothing. Sincere concerns to the contrary, our insanity remains in worrying about a something. This is why outcomes in form do not matter—there is no hierarchy of illusions, despite what the ego teaches (T-23. II.2:3). Since the truth is that everything here is a nothing appearing to be a something, if we think there is a something to be cared about we are mistaken, for it is truly nothing.
To summarize, we will know we have decided for God when His Love extends through us to embrace everyone; not in behavior, certainly, but on the level of thought, wherein we do not wish to exclude anyone from our love. If we cannot meet this condition of non-judgment, we know we have decided for the ego and its specialness. This is helpful for us to learn, as it exposes our otherwise unconscious fear of love's perfect oneness and the equality of the Sonship. Instead of experiencing this love, we continue to build altars and churches to the gods of specialness, differences, and judgment, because this ensures our continual existence. Learning to recognize the signs of the mind's decision for the ego helps us accept full responsibility for our suffering and unhappiness, without seeking to impose guilt on ourselves or others. Understanding our terror of the Course's message, we will not project it in attempts to be important, and we will come to recognize that this is a course in changing our minds and not the world.
How Many Teachers Are Needed to Save the World?
Christ asks that He may use my eyes today, and thus redeem the world. He asks this gift that He may offer peace of mind to me, and take away all terror and all pain. And as they are removed from me, the dreams that seemed to settle on the world are gone. Redemption must be one. As I am saved, the world is saved with me. For all of us must be redeemed together. Fear appears in many different forms, but love is one (W-pII.295.1).
An error collateral to believing there is a world to be saved is believing that God's "plan" calls for a certain number of people to be healed.1 This is the popular idea in New Age (and other) circles known as the "hundredth monkey"; namely, there is a certain "critical mass" or quantitative point necessary before significant change in the population can occur. This could take the form of believing that once a certain number of people studied the Course, the world itself would be affected by its teachings. To borrow the Course's term of circle of Atonement, once the requisite number of people were inside, all the world would have accepted the Atonement. Setting aside the discredited nature of the "research" on which this notion was based, the concept nonetheless merits some discussion, for though it represents a totally different thought system from A Course in Miracles, it is one frequently confused with it.
A Course in Miracles' idea of "the circle of Atonement" is not a quantitative concept, and has nothing to do with accumulating numbers of students of the Course. We read in the manual for teachers, for example, that only one teacher of God is needed to save the world (M-12). This is because there is only one teacher—our Self. When the Atonement has been accepted by an individual, that person remembers there is only one Son, and therefore the dream of separation, differences, and multiplicity is seen as simply unreal. To believe that a certain number of students is needed to save the world clearly makes the concept of numbers real, not to mention establishing the reality of a species or world that has to be saved. Since the dream consists only of the one mind of God's one Son, A Course in Miracles is designed to heal this mind, for in our insanity, each of us believes we are a fragment entire unto itself.
If this non-quantitative aspect of A Course in Miracles is not understood, students of Jesus' course would be tempted to believe they must proselytize or otherwise preach the "new gospel" according to the "real" Jesus. Students will band together and think of themselves as a movement, network, religion, church, or some other special category. They will revel in the thought that a copy of A Course in Miracles was sent to the Vatican, the White House, or placed in other symbols of worldly power. They will feel drawn to criticize or attack other spiritual paths, or even other teachers of the Course, for these would inevitably be seen as competitors for achieving that critical mass necessary to shift the balance for the world's salvation.
However, Jesus wants us not to care whether one person or a million hear us. He would have us learn—not just intellectually— that there is no one out there to hear. After all, Jesus can only count to one. Therefore there is no need to "count the house," for only one Son is hearing us because there is only one Son, and our peace is rooted in that awareness. If people attack and reject us in their fear, or love us in their specialness, we know it is their choice and has nothing to do with us, let alone with our mind's love that can never be changed, as it can never be changed in them.
This error is easily avoided by focusing only on what A Course in Miracles teaches, and directing attention to one's forgiveness lessons and the eventual acceptance of the Atonement. There is no one else to be "saved," and accepting this is our only responsibility. And so it makes no difference whether there are five Course students in the world or five million, and if the number is important, we are no longer among its students because we would then be studying a different course.
To repeat my earlier point, Jesus is not interested in what our bodies do, nor what they do with other bodies, which includes what they do with his course. Besides, since he cannot count past one, the seeming number of his students is irrelevant to him. Moreover, he does not care how many languages they speak, nor how many times they meet as a group or how many groups even exist. He does care, however, that the decision-making mind of God's Son choose him as its teacher, for thus his lessons of forgiveness will be learned. In addition, as Jesus is outside the temporal world, the time such learning takes is also irrelevant. As he says about the coming of God and Christ:
What is a hundred or a thousand years to Them, or tens of thousands? When They come, time's purpose is fulfilled (T-26.IX.4:1-2).
Time's purpose is fulfilled when the Atonement is accepted and the dream ends.
It is therefore important to see how we project onto another what are really our own secret plans of specialness. This includes projecting our plans for A Course in Miracles onto Jesus, without waiting to hear his plan of accepting the Atonement for ourselves. Once again, Jesus is not asking us to convert the nonbelievers or misguided Christians, but to convert us from the ego thought system by learning to choose the right-minded thought system of forgiveness that will awaken us all from the separated and fragmented dream of multiplicity.
We have already seen how the extension of A Course in Miracles through us is not our responsibility, and that it is our ego projecting when we care what happens, when we count numbers—whether in a bank account, room, or books sold—and think these are important for our salvation. Unless we think we are better at arithmetic than Jesus, we had better stop counting. When we are in the real world with him, there will be only one Son, for we will be beyond the dream of quantification; no world to heal, no monkeys to tip the scales of spirituality to salvation. We are that one, and when our minds are healed and we have accepted the Atonement, we will know that the one we are is everyone.
How Do We Become Jesus' Voice?
He needs my voice. He needs my hands and feet.
He needs my eyes to look upon and bless
Our tired brothers, weary of the world,
And yet believing it is all there is.
How can they learn except He teach through me?
How can He give them hope but through my voice?
How can I hear His Voice except through them?
(The Gifts of God, p. 20; italics mine)
We become Jesus' voice by asking his help to remove the interferences to hearing his voice. These are our special relationships, as we read in the following passage from "The Treachery of Specialness":
What answer that the Holy Spirit gives can reach you, when it is your specialness to which you listen, and which asks and answers?…
You can defend your specialness, but never will you hear the Voice for God beside it. They speak a different language and they fall on different ears (T-24.II.4:3; 5:1-2).
The roots of our specialness are buried midst layers of guilt and fear in our minds. With no means of gaining access to them, they remain hidden, protected still further by our projections of guilt onto others. Yet the very means the ego has used to guard against incursion of the Son unto its citadels (in the mind) Jesus uses to penetrate the ego's double shield of guilt and projection, wrong mind and body. He reminds us that what we attack in a body is nothing but a projection of what we have first attacked within our minds. Once aware of this fact, we can go within and choose again. In other words, our special relationships that were designed to silence God's Voice become the very means It uses to bring us back to It. Our special love and hate partners are transformed into saviors, for their presence in our dreams allows us to hear the Presence that calls from beyond them: How can I hear His Voice except through them?
We thus need to be attentive to our thoughts, feelings, and perceptions of the world, for these are our one hope of being healed. The locked doors of our minds can be opened only by the key of forgiveness, the process that begins with the recognition that there is another way of perceiving. Our asking his help allows Jesus to correct our misperceptions by guiding our sight within. Thus he teaches us to see the world as he does—a mirror of our mind's decision for crucifixion or resurrection, damnation or holiness:
Damnation is your judgment on yourself, and this you will project upon the world. See it as damned, and all you see is what you did to hurt the Son of God. If you behold disaster and catastrophe, you tried to crucify him. If you see holiness and hope, you joined the Will of God to set him free. There is no choice that lies between these two decisions. And you will see the witness to the choice you made, and learn from this to recognize which one you chose (T-21.in.2:1-6).
The end of our forgiveness is the restoration to our minds of their power to choose. The fate of the world literally hangs in the balance of this power, for the world is the mind's decision-making power. Its status as a place of joy and hope, or disaster and despair rests exclusively with our choice. Which will it be? Jesus asks. To be his voice and eyes means we want to hear only his message of hope, and see only through his vision of the mind's inherent oneness. Anything else denies the world its joy and us our hope. Choose again, our brother calls to us, for "Who with the Love of God upholding him could find the choice of miracles or murder hard to make?" (T-23.IV.9:8).
The Christ in you is very still. He knows where you are going, and He leads you there in gentleness and blessing all the way. His Love for God replaces all the fear you thought you saw within yourself. His Holiness shows you Himself in him whose hand you hold, and whom you lead to Him. And what you see is like yourself. For what but Christ is there to see and hear and love and follow home? He looked upon you first, but recognized that you were not complete. And so He sought for your completion in each living thing that He beholds and loves. And seeks it still, that each might offer you the Love of God (T-24.V.6).
There is no world to save but our own, and Christ awaits our return to remember Him as our Self. Seeing His face in our brothers is the means by which His memory dawns on our minds. Through His eyes we see a world crying out for the love it will never find. Yet with vision guiding us, we help each other, as we help ourselves, to learn that love can be found only when we seek within. The journey seems long and arduous, for it takes us through the far country of the ego's fear and guilt, judgment and hate, attack and death. Alone we would never make it, but Jesus—Christ's shining symbol on earth—takes our hands, shares his eyes, and sings Heaven's song as his feet so gently guide our own. Our arms extend to embrace all living things, that they may remember, along with us, that specialness has no power over love. Heaven's gate opens wide to greet us as the journey closes, and each of us passes through, holding the hand of Jesus in which the Sonship rests serene forever. The sweetest words this side of Heaven reverberate in our healed minds, and we hear Jesus' quiet voice lead us beyond:
Yet is He quiet, for He knows that love is in you now, and safely held in you by that same hand that holds your brother's in your own. Christ's hand holds all His brothers in Himself. He gives them vision for their sightless eyes, and sings to them of Heaven, that their ears may hear no more the sound of battle and of death. He reaches through them, holding out His hand, that everyone may bless all living things, and see their holiness. And He rejoices that these sights are yours, to look upon with Him and share His joy. His perfect lack of specialness He offers you, that you may save all living things from death, receiving from each one the gift of life that your forgiveness offers to your Self. The sight of Christ is all there is to see. The song of Christ is all there is to hear. The hand of Christ is all there is to hold. There is no journey but to walk with Him (T-24.V.7).
The guilt-ridden world that never was softly fades into the nothingness that is its source. And we are saved from a dream that only seemed so real. Heaven's song of love, once more our own, has regained its Voice at last, and God's Son remembers that he is God's Son.
1. This and the following four paragraphs are adapted from The Most Commonly Asked Questions of A Course in Miracles, pp.113-14.