Reading A Course in Miracles: Cause and Effect

The early part of this section threw me the first few times I read. The Author is clear that we can ask to have fear removed from our lives because we made it. This was confusing: if it was really Jesus, and Jesus was as tight with God as the text seemed to indicate, then why not just relieve us of fear? That business about not tampering with the law of cause and effect felt legalistic to me, as if Jesus were hiding behind his lawyer.

Yet I have come to appreciate this idea, both for the emphasis it places on the power of our own thought, and on our right relationship with Jesus.

Let me take that last point first. In my progressive-in-a-traditional-way Catholic upbringing and education, the power of Jesus was always paramount. He could do what you could not. There were no limitations placed on his power. Even after I’d moved on and was beginning to revise my understanding of how Jesus was and how I related to him, I still retained this innate sense that he was superior to me.

A Course in Miracles does not hew to that standard. At best, Jesus is an older brother (T-1.II.3:7) entitled to respect and devotion, but not awe. We are called to service with him – that is the essence of what miracle workers do – but it seems that in order to join with him, we actually have to acknowledge our own strength and power. He has perfectly accepted the atonement; we are bound to. The early lessons are all about accepting the power of our thinking and beginning to understand the need to bring it into alignment with God.

When Jesus declines to interfere with what we make – in this case fear – he is effectively accepting and honoring us as equals. Reciprocity at this stage consists in our willigness to grow into what he already sees. It is important to remember that the journey we believe we are taking ended a long time ago. From the perspective of eternity, which Jesus shares with God, we are perfect and there’s nothing to kvetch about.

That’s easier said than done, of course. While we’re here – while eternity is still an idea – there seems to be a lot of conflict. One way to handle this is to recognize that conflict – and the discomfort it arouses – are simply signals that we need correction. The solution to that fear and discomfort is perfect love which is the atonement. Accepting that is the fundamental correction to all our problems.

Thus, we aren’t asked to overcome fear or master it. We don’t have to tough it out. Instead, we are called to become masters of Love – and that starts with the simple awareness of our need for love. Whenever we are in pain of any kind, the only answer is Love. The more we remember this – and the more we pry ourselves open to its application – the closer we get to Heaven. Here in these early sections of the text – much like the early lessons – Jesus is throwing a lot of big ideas that are going to be considerably expanded later in the text.

We are called here to readiness – a state of existence in which our willingness to accept the atonement emerges in place of fear. When we are in that state, then we are preparing ourselves for the necessary change of mind, a miracle.

It is sometimes hard to keep one’s balance with the Course. On the one hand there’s a tremendous undoing of cultural and other expectations. On the other, we’re being eased along the path of personal transformation by Jesus who acts as a sort of gentle coach. And on the third hand, there are a lot of heavy metaphysics being brought along for the ride. We can take the Course at any pace we like, of course, but there seems to be a sense of urgency to it, as if Jesus is really really counting on us to get up to speed as quickly as possible.

I have written before that if the Course feels right to you – if it is your path and you’re confident of that – then it’s probably not a mistake to really devote yourself to it. I have begun to understand that through this text and lessons we are offered a self-study plan that is not simply about waking up in a personal look-at-me-I’m-enlightened sense, but in a much deeper, salvation-of-the-world sense. It is no mistake that in this section Jesus explicitly states that God has only one child (T-2.VII.6:1) and we are all it. Waking up is not about saving Sean or (insert your name here). It’s about saving all our brothers and sisters.

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