The Most Commonly Asked Questions About
A Course in Miracles
Chapter 4: JESUS
For many students of A Course in Miracles this is a problematic issue. Why, they ask, do I have to forgive Jesus; I am not angry at him. I (Gloria) remember many years ago when I had my own group that met to discuss the Course. This issue was almost responsible for World War III breaking out in my dining room, where the group met every week. It was certainly not a neutral topic, and forgiving Jesus is indeed a central issue that goes to the heart of the Course's teaching about undoing the ego thought system. Let us begin our answer by looking at some representative passages from the Course where Jesus discusses this. The first two come in the section, "The Obstacles to Peace" in Chapter 19 of the text, where he states:
I am made welcome in the state of grace, which means you have at last forgiven me. For I became the symbol of your sin, and so I had to die instead of you....And then at the beginning of the next chapter, in the section "Holy Week" which was written during the week preceding Easter, Jesus returns to this important point:
You stand beside your brother, thorns in one hand and lilies in the other [thorns and lilies are the Course's symbols, respectively, for attack and forgiveness, crucifixion and resurrection], uncertain which to give. Join now with me and throw away the thorns, offering the lilies to replace them. This Easter I would have the gift of your forgiveness offered by you to me, and returned by me to you. We cannot be united in crucifixion and in death. Nor can the resurrection be complete until your forgiveness rests on Christ, along with mine .... I was a stranger and you took me in, not knowing who I was. Yet for your gift of lilies you will know. In your forgiveness of this stranger, alien to you and yet your ancient Friend, lies his release and your redemption with him (T-20.I.2:6-10; 4:3-5).Jesus has to be forgiven on two levels. The first relates to the "bitter idols" the world has made of him, which clearly reflects its projections and has nothing to do with him at all. These idols have come in both special hate and love forms, where he has either been made into a figure of judgment and punishment who demands suffering and sacrifice of his followers, or else a magical savior who, upon petition, will solve problems and reward good deeds and faithful discipleship with his love and beneficence. Once again, such images reflect the specialness needs of the image-makers, with no reference to the real Jesus at all, who clearly is beyond such ego concerns. And so it can be seen here that Jesus is to be forgiven for what he has never done, and even more to the point, forgiven for what he has never been.
To the ego, Jesus is the most threatening figure imaginable, as we have already indicated in our answers to earlier questions, for if he is real, then the ego thought system cannot be. And so the part of anyone's mind that still clings to specialness and individuality -- the hallmarks of the ego thought system -- would inevitably fear, and therefore attack Jesus to protect itself. This attack reflects the original ego thought that the Son of God had sinfully separated himself from the Love of God. Guilt over such attacks on Jesus -- the Western world's greatest embodiment of this Love -- can only lead to denial. Guilt (or self-hatred) is such an overwhelming experience that it is almost inevitably buried in our minds. This reflects the magical belief that, like the proverbial ostrich, if we do not see the problem, it is not there. This ego dynamic of avoiding the pain of our guilt culminates in projecting our belief in sin and guilt onto Jesus.
This is the meaning of the passages quoted above from the text. Rather than our accepting responsibility for our guilt -- which the ego teaches us must lead to death as justified punishment for our sin -- we hope, once again magically, that by projecting the guilt out onto Jesus, leading to his death, we will be off the hook. For the ego would kill rather than have its existence undone. And thus two thousand years of belief in vicarious salvation, which Christian theology espouses, proclaims that "Jesus did it for us." This insane dynamic reflects the ego's "bread-and-butter" dynamic of the guilt-attack cycle, wherein the guiltier we feel, the greater is our need to attack others in "self-defense," which in turn reinforces the guilt which always remains repressed in our minds. And then the cycle begins all over again. This is why Christians have always worshiped a slain savior, and why Catholics specifically commemorate Jesus' death by reenacting it every day at Mass. Our guilt impels us continually to kill him off. And so what we forgive in Jesus is simply the projection of what remains unforgiven in ourselves.
What we find here is that this first level of forgiving Jesus for our projections onto him, is really the defense against the underlying level which reflects our real need for forgiveness: Jesus has to be forgiven for who he truly is. Again, if the Jesus of reality is indeed present within our minds as the perfect embodiment of God's Love -- the pure expression of the Holy Spirit's Atonement principle -- then our entire identity as a separated physical and psychological being is undone. It is truly this that we hold against Jesus. He is the living proof within the dream of our own existence, that we are wrong and he is right. He is the clear and unmistakable presence from outside the dream that attests to our sleeping minds that the dream itself is unreal. To accept this is to accept that we are truly not here, but dreaming a dream where we made up an individual self to replace the Self that God created. And so to preserve this made-up self, we must attack and destroy the truth. We have already examined this idea in some depth, but let us return to it once more by quoting some expressive lines from one of Helen's later poems, "Stranger on the Road," which so graphically portray this fear of confronting the truth of Jesus' existence. In effect, Jesus' presence in our minds denies the "truth" of our own thought system of fear and death, which in our strange insanity we believe is comforting to us and therefore needs to be protected from him:
And so in all honesty we need to look at how we fear and hate Jesus, feelings that are almost always buried in our unconscious minds, under layers and layers of defenses. Through forgiving him for who he truly is, we learn at the same time to forgive ourselves for trying to pretend that we are not who we truly are, and then seeking to blame him for it. Were the presence of Jesus not so explicitly clear in A Course in Miracles, many students would not have the opportunity of dealing with this deeply buried layer of unforgiveness and guilt in themselves.The road is long. I will not lift my eyes,
Reproduced with the kind permission of Gloria and Kenneth
Wapnick and the Foundation for A Course in Miracles
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