Miracles are part of an interlocking
chain of forgiveness which, when completed,
is the Atonement. Atonement works
all the time and in all the dimensions of time.
This is the first statement of the Atonement.
Let me just say a couple of words about what the Atonement is, as the Course
uses the word. Please do not read the word as "at-one- ment." That is a
common New Age word, and many people come to A Course in Miracles
and read it that way. First, it is not what the Course means; and second,
it takes away from one of the Course's purposes, that of using Christian
language and terminology in a different way. If you change the word to
"at-one-ment," you are going to lose that meaning.
The word "Atonement" is basically a
synonym for the word "correction," and is the Course's term for the overall
plan that came into existence with the Holy Spirit to undo the error of
believing we are separate. The Holy Spirit was placed in our mind by God,
and reunites us with the Father we thought we left. The Holy Spirit is
the connecting link between ourselves and God, which thereby undoes the
separation, correcting the error. So, we could say that the Holy Spirit
really is the expression of the Atonement principle, which is that the
separation from God never truly happened. The word "Atonement" is the Course
word for the overall plan of awakening the Son of God from his nightmare
that he was separate.
The word is also used in a narrower
sense to describe the individual Atonement plan that each of us has to
complete. The Course says that our only responsibility is to accept the
Atonement for ourselves (text, p. 22; T-2.V.5:1). That means that we must
accept the denial of the reality of the separation, and the unreality of
guilt in the specific relationships and situations that we confront. Atonement,
then, has meaning on an individual level, which is our own particular path.
In other words, this carpet of time is made up of thousands and millions
of little threads, and each thread represents the individual life we call
our own. Each of us must undo the beliefs that go into each thread, and
that is the Atonement. When every last child of God completes his or her
plan, the overall plan of Atonement is complete. That is how the word is
It has specific meaning in the context
of the Course in terms of the purpose I mentioned before, that Christianity
has taught that Atonement only comes through sacrifice and suffering. There
is a very powerful section at the beginning of Chapter 3 called "Atonement
Without Sacrifice" (text, p. 32; T-3.1), which specifically deals with
the crucifixion of Jesus and talks about how its purpose was not to atone
for sin by suffering, sacrifice, and death. That is a belief that comes
from people's guilt. The true Atonement is to correct that misbelief by
recognizing that the body is not real, that sin is not real, and that it
is all a bad dream. Again, the word "Atonement" is synonymous with correction.
Basically, through choosing the miracle
we are really choosing to forgive, and the more we do that, the more we
are able to extend this forgiveness to other people. When that whole process
or chain is completed, that is the Atonement. This is an image the Course
uses in other places. It talks about how a strong chain of Atonement is
welded each time we choose a miracle (text, p. 8; T-1.III.9:2). There is
a section called "The Circle of Atonement" (text, p. 262; T-14.V) which
has the same idea. It is an ever-widening circle; we draw more and more
people into the plan of the Atonement through our forgiveness of them.
"Atonement works all the time and in
all the dimensions of time." The phrase, "all the dimensions of time,"
reflects the idea of a hologram, which I mentioned earlier (see discussion
of principle #13). It can be understood in terms of another statement which
says that behind each brother stand a thousand more (text, p. 537; T-27.V.10:4).
In forgiving you, I am also forgiving all the other people in my life,
or other lives, who have represented the same problem. All minds are joined.
If I have a problem, let us say an authority problem, then behind you as
a specific example of that, would be all the other people in my life with
whom I have had the same problem. So that Atonement corrects and heals
all aspects of the same issue, even when we are not aware of it. Again,
"Atonement" refers to the individual level as well as to the collective