This section of the text introduces to a key component of A Course in Miracles: the atonement, rightly understood, is a remedy. It is a way of healing that which is ill and in error. The miracle is the active method of bringing this remedy – which is love – to bear. Healing is the inevitable result. This is a course intent on making us better.
What is interesting is that the focus on healing is more or less solely a matter of being released from fear. Our experience of the world and ourselves is very much fragmented into levels and divisions, each with its own varying needs. Thus, cancer and a headache require radically different remedies. An inability to pay the mortgage and not having a quarter for the parking meter are two very different types of problems.
It is almost impossible to perceive our bodies in this world without these splits and divisions.
Our natural inclination is approach them as separate problems requiring uniquely separate solutions. We get chemotherapy for cancer and we take an aspirin for the headache. We negotiate with the bank over the mortgage and hope the parking attendant doesn’t notice that we didn’t put any coins in the meter.
A Course in Miracles is very clear: whatever “problems” we have are merely symptoms of the only problem we really have, which is our perceived separation from God.
Believing in this separation – which effectively makes it real for us – leads to two things. First, guilt at having actively parted ways with God. Second, fear of the retribution that is sure to follow.
It is very important not to underestimate the degree to which this guilt and fear drive us. Healing it can take thousands of years (W-pI.97.3:2).
The atonement heals our fear – it allows us to look at it, see it for the illusory sham that it is. That seeing – visioning, really – , in turn, enables us to realize that there is nothing to be guilty about. We did not leave God. It never happened.
It’s easy to write that – or say it, as the case may be. Making it the foundation of our actual experience on the other hand . . . that’s another charge altogether.
This section – like other early sections of the text – continually emphasizes that we have to heal our errors at the level on which they seem to occur. It’s helpful to know that all fear comes from our misguided understanding of our relationship with God. But we still have to figure out how to handle public speaking. Or asking somebody out on a date. Or trying a new recipe. Or letting our child tackle some new experience. Or facing death.
In a way, the course asks us to grasp this psychological principle of projection – to accept this narrative of separation – and then to allow the new understanding thus engendered to heal whatever it is that we are experiencing in the world. Remember what we saw at the end of The Altar of God: the world is simply a means by which we heal the separation (T-2.III.5:12). If you’re facing it in the world – whatever it is – it’s there to facilitate your healing, your return to God.
This can create an interesting tension. On the one hand, any worldly or physical remedy that we accept for our problems in the world are magic (T-2.IV.2:8). That aspirin? Magic. Penicillin? Magic. Paycheck? Magic. Fifty minutes of talk therapy? Magic. Your crystals and tarot cards? Magic. Course in Miracles workbook? Yup. That’s magic, too.
And yet, it is better to accept these varied “magical” remedies than to take none at all. Why? Because implicit in this section – and we really need to take note of this fact and not let it go – is the recognition that what Jesus is asking of us here is hard. It’s really hard. And so we’re better off healing the separation in small doses. We’re not in the slow class – we’re in the only class there is and it’s filled with brothers and sisters, all equally beloved of God, all equally gifted, however it “appears” right now.
So do I really need to walk my dog at 4 a.m. every morning in order to feel close to God? Do my prayers really need to take place beside a cup of tea and in the same north-facing rocker? Do I have to drop to my knees in a sign of humility? Do I have to write these posts?
Of course not.
But do those rituals feel loving and kind to me? You bet. And so I accept them. I accept them and I accept also that Jesus will in time lead me past them. My job is the willingness to love – which is also the willingness to let the fear be healed. It is not my job to decide how much fear gets healed, how the healing happens, what the effects look like in the world. I listen for the voice and I do what it says. Period.
Thus, this section is really a chance to ask ourselves what – and perhaps where – are our personal symbols of love and healing. Don’t judge the answers! It doesn’t matter if your personal healing is watching cardinals at the feeder, or hand-knitting gnomes, or making blueberry pancakes for your kids, or going for long walks in the rain, or dosing on rescue remedy, or following a strict vegetarian diet, or being celibate, or playing dungeons and dragons, or writing poetry, or whatever.
The form doesn’t matter – form never matters! What matters is the content, the love which informs and fills and flows from the form. That’s the game. That’s the whole thing, right there.
In this respect, it almost feels as if we are being asked to be even more a part of the world, to deepen our attachment to and our investment in it. But it is – as we noted in the Atonement as Defense – a question of intention, of what it is for (T-2.II.3:2). Is our engagement based on a sincere desire to be healed of our fear by Jesus? Is it based on a genuine willingness to know at last that the separation never happened?
That is the real purpose of time and space and matter: to learn that it is unnecessary, to learn that we are really – even now – already home.