The end of guilt

A Course in Miracles is a spiritual curriculum scribed from Jesus by Helen Schucman, with the help of Bill Thetford. Although the form of the message is definitely Christian, much of the content boils down to a correction of various biblical concepts, and often veers more towards the Buddhistic Advaita Vedanta. For example, whereas Christianity clearly teaches that God created the material universe and all bodies within it, the Course states that this entire universe is merely a dream with no basis in reality, and that we are all asleep in an illusory nightmare of separation from our Creator, Who did not create the material universe. In the Advaita Vedanta this is mirrored in the contrast of Brahman (nondualistic reality) versus Maya (illusion of dualistic material perception). As another example, whereas Christianity clearly identifies Jesus as the Christ, the one Son of God, and all other humans as ‘adopted children’, the Course teaches that ‘Christ’ means all life combined; Jesus himself states that he is our equal brother, and that you and I can attain all that he has attained, i.e. the acceptance of the Atonement and a total awakening from the dream of time and space. So to label A course in Miracles as the Third Testament would be a gross misreading of the content of its message, which is more reminiscent of the nondualistic spiritual schools of the East.

Perhaps Eastertime illustrates the clearest contrast between the biblical message and A Course in Miracles. In Christianity, the key event of Easter is the crucifixion, in that ‘Jesus died for our sins’. Although this act was meant to absolve us from guilt, the biblical message nevertheless remains something like: “Yes, my dear people, you have sinned against your Creator. Never forget this. Even though God loves you all so much that he allowed his very own Son to be sacrificed, the bloodstain of this original cardinal sin can never be removed, and all of you must still lead a life of suffering and sacrifice in order to be accepted back into Heaven when you die, as will inevitably happen.” The core of the message therefore is that guilt is the truth, and always will be. And so our fear of God remains firmly intact, as we are constantly reminded that our feelings of guilt are justified because the original sin did in fact happen.

In A Course in Miracles, on the other hand, Jesus teaches that Eastertime should be the celebration of the end of guilt, as exemplified not in his crucifixion, but in his resurrection, which illustrated that the Son of God (all life combined!) cannot be killed. In the Course, Jesus puts it this way: “I elected, for your sake and mine, to demonstrate that the most outrageous assault, as judged by the ego, does not matter [i.e., the resurrection]. As the world judges these things, but not as God knows them, I was betrayed, abandoned, beaten, torn, and finally killed. It was clear that this was only because of the projection of others onto me, since I had not harmed anyone and had healed many. […] My one lesson, which I must teach as I learned it, is that no perception that is out of accord with the judgment of the Holy Spirit can be justified. I undertook to show this was true in an extreme case, merely because it would serve as a good teaching aid to those whose temptation to give in to anger and assault would not be so extreme. I will with God that none of His Sons should suffer. […] The message of the crucifixion is perfectly clear: Teach only love, for that is what you are. If you interpret the crucifixion in any other way, you are using it as a weapon for assault rather than as the call for peace for which it was intended. The Apostles often misunderstood it, and for the same reason that anyone misunderstands it.” (T-6.I.9:1-10; 11:4-7; 13:1-3).

And so this is Jesus’ Easter message in A Course in Miracles: “You are not asked to be crucified, which was part of my own teaching contribution. You are merely asked to follow my example in the face of much less extreme temptations to misperceive, and not to accept them as false justifications for anger. There can be no justification for the unjustifiable. Do not believe there is, and do not teach that there is. Remember always that what you believe you will teach. Believe with me, and we will become equal as teachers. […] I have made it perfectly clear that I am like you and you are like me, but our fundamental equality can be demonstrated only through joint decision. You are free to perceive yourself as persecuted if you choose. When you do choose to react that way, however, you might remember that I was persecuted as the world judges, and did not share this evaluation for myself. And because I did not share it, I did not strengthen it. I therefore offered a different interpretation of attack, and one which I want to share with you. If you will believe it, you will help me teach it. […] I do not want you to allow any fear to enter into the thought system toward which I am guiding you. I do not call for martyrs but for teachers. No one is punished for sins, and the Sons of God are not sinners.” (T-6.I.6:6-11; 5:1-6; 16:2).

I would like to point out that this blog post is not about Bible-bashing. In A Course in Miracles, Jesus himself asserts that his Course is only one among many thousands of paths, and all paths will ultimately lead back to God (M-1.4:1) . So following Christianity is perfectly okay, if you feel that is your path. The only difference is that the Course claims to save time to reach the point of all life returning back to God, because it radically eradicates the basic notion of guilt. Remember always that “I am not a body. I am free. For I am still as God created me” (W-pI.201-220). Eastertime can serve as a particularly helpful reminder that the perfect love of God for all His creations could never be impeded by his being attacked, or at least rejected, by His creations. The very notion is plain silly, as God was, is, and remains perfect Love. Imagine God as an infinitely shining sun, and you and I and all other life as the sunbeams. Our entire material universe is nothing more than the imaginary pondering of the sunbeams — created with free will — about what it would be like to be apart from the sun, which could of course never be. Again, we are merely dreaming that this is indeed the case, as we stubbornly restrict our awareness to the prison of sensory perception.

We would do well to often remind ourselves of this comforting notion from the final chapter of the text: “Temptation has one lesson it would teach, in all its forms, wherever it occurs. It would persuade the holy Son of God he is a body, born in what must die, unable to escape its frailty, and bound by what it orders him to feel […] Learn, then, the happy habit of response to all temptation to perceive yourself as weak and miserable with these words: I am as God created me. His Son can suffer nothing. And I am His Son. Thus is Christ’s strength invited to prevail, replacing all your weakness with the strength that comes from God and that can never fail […] You are as God created you, and so is every living thing you look upon, regardless of the images you see. What you behold as sickness and as pain, as weakness and as suffering and loss, is but temptation to perceive yourself defenseless and in hell. Yield not to this, and you will see all pain, in every form, wherever it occurs, but disappear as mists before the sun” (T-31.VIII.1:1-2; 5:1-5; 6:1-3).

Let us close with Jesus’ poignant message about the real meaning of Easter: “Easter is not the celebration of the cost of sin [and its resulting guilt], but of its end. If you see glimpses of the face of Christ behind the veil, looking between the snow-white petals of the lilies you have received and given as your gift, you will behold your brother’s face and recognize it. 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. The time of Easter is a time of joy, and not of mourning. Look on your risen Friend, and celebrate his holiness along with me. For Easter is the time of your salvation, along with mine. […] This is the way to Heaven and to the peace of Easter, in which we join in glad awareness that the Son of God is risen from the past, and has awakened to the present. Now is he free, unlimited in his communion with all that is within him. Now are the lilies of his innocence untouched by guilt, and perfectly protected from the cold chill of fear and withering blight of sin alike” (T-20.I.4; T-20.II.10:1-3). Happy Eastertime!

— Jan-Willem van Aalst, April 2023






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