We might consider this section a sort of adjunct to the Principles of Miracles. Yet the focus has shifted somewhat: from what miracles are to what miracle workers do. In a sense, this section is an early exposition about application. Miracles are shifts in thinking that facilitate love rather than fear; here is how we live in order to bring them forth consistently.
Thus, the focus is on deepening – on expanding – our conceptual understanding of both miracles and how to work miracles.
From time to time, students wonder if the “Jesus” who narrates A Course in Miracles is literally the historical Jesus – the follower of John, the itinerant sage of lower Galilee, executed in Jerusalem, whose life, death and resurrection are the structure of Christianity.
Set aside for a moment your answer to that question. Set aside whether having an answer to that question even matters. This section enunciating the special principles of miracle workers, is one of the most fascinating combinations of the historical Jesus and the ACIM Jesus. And it does so through the image of the cross and the idea of crucifixion.
In the text, Jesus clarifies what he meant by asking God to forgive the Roman soldiers who were executing them (as recounted in Luke 23:34).
The statement “Father forgive them for they know not what they do” in no way evaluates what they do. It is an appeal to God to heal their minds. There is no reference to the outcome of the error. That does not matter (T-2.VI.A.16:3-6).
A traditional reading of Jesus’s statement is that the soldiers are behaving in a cruel and unjust way which violates the humanity they share with Jesus. What does one do when another misbehaves? They forgive them and/or ask God to forgive them.
In a sense, Jesus is being the “better” or “bigger” man.
But in the understanding of A Course in Miracles, Jesus suggests the soldiers need forgiveness not for what they do but what what they think. Their minds are unhealed because they believe in an external world in which what they do to another person is not also done to their own selves. What they are doing – crucifying Jesus – isn’t really the point. The specific action one does under the influence of wrong-mindedness is never the problem. Rather, it’s the wrong-mindedness itself, the confusion about what is real.
Thus – again, while elaborating for ACIM students what it means to work miracles – the narrator of the text overlooks what is arguably the most significant historical events in human history. The soldiers could be teasing him for wearing cheap sandals for all he cares. The issue is entirely a question of right vs. wrong-mindedness.
Two things are happening here. First, we are being introduced to the radical and unfamiliar concept of forgiveness in A Course in Miracles. Forgiveness isn’t about judgment with respect to the external world at all; it’s about the mind with which we choose to see that world.
Second, in being asked to revise our understanding of crucifixion, we are being instructed that forgiveness without correction is “an empty gesture” (T-2.VI.A.15:3). Thus, a special principle that miracle workers embody and practice is that forgiveness is “not about judgment at all” (T-2.VI.A.16:2). It is about the injunction to “be of one mind” (T-2.VI.A.17:1).
Thus, this section makes perfectly how utterly radical the conversion of the miracle worker must be. If Jesus could be of one mind with those who tortured and killed him, then who can we possible exclude from our own living and loving?
That is, if the external event we know as the crucifixion – the hideous suffering and death of Jesus on a cross – cannot impede love, then what does? What external event or individual can we possible place us in a posture of refusing to love?
Indeed, the miracle worker is literally called to cooperate with Jesus – by remembering him in this specific way – in bringing forth love (T-2.VI.A.17:2).
And, again, to “bring forth love” is simply to be of one mind with the other, which the course refers to as “right-mindedness.” Hence this critical directive with respect to our own behavior.
Never confuse right- and wrong-mindedness. Responding to any form of error with anything except a desire to heal is an expression of this confusion (T-2.VI.A.13:3-4).
And a few lines later:
Forgiveness is an empty gesture unless it entails correction. Without this it is essential judgmental, rather than healing (T-2.VI.A.15:3-4).
Thus, miracle workers – which is what we are by virtue of our study of A Course in Miracles – eschew judgment altogether in favor of the right-mindedness modeled by Jesus as he met his death. It was not his death he wanted to fix, nor the behavior of the soldiers killing him. Rather, he wanted to heal their minds from the confusion that the external world has either meaning or effect.
In other words, healing takes place at the level of mind, which is created through God, and has literally no effect on the world it makes by believing in the possibility of separation from God.
The miracle abolishes the need for lower-order concerns . . . A clear distinction between what is created and what is made is essential. All forms of healing rest on this fundamental correction in level perception (T-2.VI.A.11:1, 12:1-2).
I want to touch briefly on the crucifixion and how we think about it with other folks in our living, especially those who aren’t studying A Course in Miracles.
I have friends, family members and colleagues who are Christian. They reflect a broad spectrum of Christian belief and experience. I don’t believe any of them would willingly entertain a conception of the crucifixion that sets aside the historical event in order to emphasize healing at the level of mind. For them, in varying ways, the cross is how Jesus redeems us all. It is the very essence of Christian identity. There are plenty of variations on this theme, but most Christians would argue that setting aside the cross as a “last useless journey” (T-4.in.3:1) is silly at best and heretical at worst.
So why does A Course in Miracles want to undo this idea? Why does it so utterly upend this traditional image?
I think it goes very forcefully to the general ACIM concept that form does not matter, but content does. It is not what we perceive but rather the mind with which we perceive it that counts. Love does not reside in objects or as an object in the world; it resides at the level of mind.
On this view, Jesus’s trial, torture and crucifixion are simply a vivid and widely-shared example of the guilt and fear that we experience as a consequence of believing that we are actually separated from God. Giving meaning to that event – he redeemed our sins, his blood was shed because he loved us, God loves us so much he killed his only son – is simply another doomed attempt to justify the separation, to see it in a meaningful light.
But the solution is not to translate separation but forget about it altogether. It did not happen. Only in that sense can we fully appreciate what the course means when it states that the cross can be our “last useless journey.”
I suggest – carefully and respectfully – that in this section, miracle workers are being invited to move beyond an experience that is merely religious or theological or even spiritual. We are not making new belief systems to replace old ones; we are not building churches or monasteries. A Course in Miracles is a radical self-study program, one that aims to change us – you and me – as we find ourselves right at this very moment. We are invited to remember ourselves in and as the love that we sometimes call God and for which Jesus remains a helpful symbol.
Symbol – but not idol. Indeed, throughout these special principles that guide the activity of miracle workers, one can almost hear Jesus begging that we not make of him a distant idol, forever enshrined on an instrument of torture. Rather, he wants to be accepted and welcomed as an older brother who knows the way home and is here to share it with us by walking with us.
Turning from this section, then, can leave miracle workers with a deeper appreciation for the entirely radical path we are now walk: miracle workers literally work miracles, transforming their minds from sites of hatred, guilt and fear to a radiant love becoming of those for whom Jesus is liberated and given welcome.
There is nothing else that needs to be done. Indeed, there is nothing else that can be done. And we have at last found the form of the one – if we will let him lead us, let him teach us – that will accomplish the seemingly impossible with us.