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Reading A Course in Miracles: Atonement and Miracles

There are a few elements to this section of A Course in Miracles that stand out for me. In some ways, they are confusing because they run modestly counter to what I often consider the course’s Vedantic leanings. Jesus is talking about action in this section, and the way that action relates to the atonement.

The atonement is the completed “interlocking chain of forgiveness” which stands at the end of time (T-1.I.25:1). In the Principles of Miracles section, atonement is compared to undoing (T-1.I.26:1), but in Atonement and Miracles, the implication seems to be that we’re going to do actually do something.

When you have been restored to the recognition of your original state, you naturally become part of the Atonement yourself. As you share my unwillingness to accept error in yourself and others, you must join the great crusade to correct it; listen to my voice, learn to undo error and act to to correct it. The power to work miracles belongs to you (T-1.III.1:5-7).

In the earlier edits overseen by William Thetford, this is summarized further: “listen, learn and do.”

Later, Jesus advises us that the Golden Rule – do unto others as you would have them do unto you – is the correct rule for our behavior (T-1.III.6:2). This is a matter of psychology, right? We respond to what we perceive and thus – in order for the Golden Rule to be an appropriate guide – our perception (and that of our brothers and sisters) must be correct.

How do we approach this call to action? This invitation to join what amounts to a forgiveness crusade?

First, Jesus is clear that we do in fact have a specific role to play in the atonement, but that in order to find it we have to reach out to him. In this section, we are invited to discipleship.

Ask me which miracles you should perform. This spares you needless effort, because you will be acting under direct communication (T-1.III.4:3-4).

I think this asking is not a one time deal but more in the nature of an ongoing process. If prayer is the medium of miracles (T-1.I.11:1), it is also the means by which we learn from Jesus what miracles are within our ambit and which are not. We can, at any time, turn to Jesus in a brief quiet way and ask for his direction.

Indeed, the other aspect of this “listen, learn and do” theme, is that Jesus is telling us here that he is going to be our guide, contingent only on our asking him to play that role. The course is clear that it’s not the only path (M-In.2:5), and that Jesus is not the only Savior (C-23.7:2-3). But if we are following the course – if it is our path – then we are following Jesus. Why resist that, even if Jesus is clear that we are not going to be forced to take his lead? What good does delay do any of us?

In general, A Course in Miracles offers few directives regarding behavior. There are no dietary restrictions. There are no mandatory rituals that have to be observed at such and such a time. No holidays. No prohibitions against sex, chocolate, rock’n’roll, drugs or fast cars. No obligatory terms of community service. No need to knock on doors and evangelize.

In this sense, the course is the opposite of religion as many of us understand it – a formal code of behavior and ethics, the following of which ensures entrance to some promised land.

Instead, we are simply asked to turn to Jesus and ask him to lead us. Where we’re led is not the point – perhaps we’re going to be famous spiritual gurus. Perhaps we’re going to be bakers. Or mechanics. Perhaps we’ll be vegetarians or celibates or marathon runners. It doesn’t matter. Our specific role in salvation is between us and Jesus and all that’s needed on our end is the willingness to reach out to him. That is sufficient action because it will naturally beget all other action and ensure that its goal is forgiveness, which is the atonement.

Miracles arise from a mind that is ready for them. By being united this mind goes out to everyone, even without the awareness of the miracle worker himself (T-1.III.7:1-2).

Really, this section simply asks a question: are we ready to be active disciples of Jesus? Our practice aims solely at a consistent yes.

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